Restoring Rights, Restoring Trust: Evidence that Reversing Felon Disenfranchisement Penalties Increases Both Trust and Cooperation with Government

Electoral Regulation Research Network (VIC) Seminar

Thursday 2 August


  • Dr Victoria Shineman

About the Seminar:

Felon disenfranchisement laws restrict the voting rights of more than 6 million US Citizens. Beyond the effects on voter turnout and electoral outcomes, how do these laws affect individual-level attitudes and behaviors? This paper presents the results from two field experiments embedded within panel surveys conducted before and after statewide elections in Ohio and Virginia. The survey population is composed of US citizens with felony convictions who were once disenfranchised, but are now either eligible to vote, or to have their voting rights restored. Experimental treatments provide varying assistance with the restoration of voting rights, as well as assistance with voter registration among those whose rights have already been restored. In comparison to a placebo group who received no information about voting rights, subjects who received treatments about the restoration of voting rights demonstrated stronger trust in government and the criminal justice system, and an increased willingness to cooperate with law enforcement. Treatments also generated increases in political information and efficacy. As a whole, the results suggest that reversing disenfranchisement causes citizens to increase their pro-democratic attitudes and behaviors - all of which are predictors of reduced recidivism.

About the Speaker:

Victoria Shineman is an Assistant Professor in the Political Science Department at the University of Pittsburgh. She earned her PhD from New York University, and was a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Princeton University. Her research focuses on electoral policies which affect the costs and incentives to participate, ranging from systems that encourage voting (like compulsory voting) to those that discourage or disenfranchise (like felon disenfranchisement and other forms of voter suppression). Shineman studies the primary effect of these systems on voter turnout, as well as the second-order (downstream) effects of electoral systems on mass behavior, including political information, trust, efficacy, and polarization. Shineman is a BITSS Catalyst with the Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences, and a member of Evidence in Governance and Politics (EGAP). She teaches courses in public opinion, voting behavior, and experimental research, and supervises research among undergraduate and PhD students. She also teaches units on research ethics, transparency, and reproducibility.