Study says race is driving voter ID laws

What is really behind the rash of new voter identification laws? We have available a scientific answer, one not distorted by political rhetoric or blatantly ridiculous reasons (“We really only want to prevent voter fraud” – all of a sudden!) 

ScienceDaily has recently reported on a new scientific poll undertaken by the Center for Political Communication at the University of Delaware. ScienceDaily doesn’t use the term “racism” but instead refers to “racial resentment.” People might object to being called “racists” but everybody has something or other that they resent so being “resentful” seems to be a neutral term and nobody’s feelings need be hurt.

The poll reveals that the new voter id laws have their strongest support among those “who harbor negative sentiments toward African Americans.” Coincidence?

Non-African Americans who took the poll were also asked a series of questions devised to measure “racial resentment” and the results showed that “support for voter ID laws is highest among those with the highest levels of “racial resentment.”

One of the two lead researchers, Paul Brewer, is quoted as saying, “These findings suggest that Americans’ attitudes about race play an important role in driving their views on voter ID laws.”

Just to make it clear, the more racist you are the more likely you are going to be in favor of the new voter ID laws. 

The least amount of racial resentment was found to occur in Democrats and liberals. However the researchers still found a “surprising” level of support for the ID laws among Democrats and liberals and this support correlated with the level of “racial resentment” expressed by Democrats and liberals.

The poll found that the biggest racists just happen to be Republicans and conservatives (they have “the highest ‘racial resentment’ scores”). Unlike the Democrats and liberals, however, Republicans and conservatives in general are all for the ID laws “regardless of how much ‘racial resentment’ they express.” 

The poll also supported the views of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that these ID laws are a throwback to the days of Jim Crow. It is especially worrisome to see them popping in the Southern states with a history of Jim Crow and the disenfranchisement of Black people.

What can one conclude from the release of this polling information? It is fair to say that we now have the numbers to show the impact of racism is still wide spread in this country but that it is concentrated in the Republican Party and the conservative movement. This movement’s leadership seeks to politically institutionalize a new version of Jim Crow.

The Democrats and liberals have problems with racist attitudes as well but they are personal individual manifestations and not part of the ideological program of Democratic Party.

A further conclusion is that there is more at stake in the upcoming elections in November than just a possible change in which party controls the Congress or the presidency. What is at issue is the nature of the type of country we are going to have in the twenty-first century. The Republicans, the party of racism and reaction, seek to undue all the democratic gains of the civil rights movement, especially the right to vote, and mislead our country in a backwards direction. A Democratic victory will throw a roadblock in front of this attempt and open the way for the American people to struggle to increase and deepen democratic rights in the future.

Photo: Flickr/Creative Commons


Thomas Riggins
Thomas Riggins

Thomas Riggins has a background in philisophy, anthropology and archeology. He writes from New York, NY. Riggins was associate editor of Political Affairs magazine.