Does the favorability of Hillary Clinton falter with the implications of the 1994 Crime Bill?

By Summer Stephens | University of Oklahoma Public Affairs and Administration Junior

Adam Gratch | University of Oklahoma Political Science Junior

Gloria Noble | University of Oklahoma Broadcast Journalism Senior


In the 2016 Presidential Election, Hillary Clinton was questioned about her husband’s keynote bill that was passed in 1994. President Bill Clinton passed the Violent Crimes and Law Enforcement Act that increased law enforcement presence, expanded avenues for treatment and other preventionary tactics. But the effects of the bill have far outweighed positive aspects, with a rise of minority incarceration rates and other criminal justice system factors. With the information about group solidarity for African Americans, we believed there would be a change in responses of favorability toward Hillary Clinton because of the large effects, particularly for African Americans, of the bill on incarceration rates. We found that African Americans are not negatively influenced by the 1994 Crime Bill, even after the treatment, did not change dramatically, and did not change negatively. The intersection of gender and race had more of an affect on favorability, with self-identifying African American and Hispanic females having a negative response to the treatment.

Does it Matter? H.R. 3355 on Candidate Favorability in the 2016 Election

Race and crime: two matters that are seemingly unrelated but implicitly linked. Both issues have political, social, and fiscal implications; but for the purposes of this research study, we hypothesize the intersection of race and crime is particularly influential on candidate favorability. Studying how race and racial groups’ knowledge of crime policies is necessary in understanding to whom crime matters, if at all. In the 2016 election cycle, both race and crime played a key part in determining candidate support.

Exit polls revealed racial, gender, and educational disparities among each candidate’s supporters. Current exit polling data shows errors toward minority groups, particularly Latinos in this election cycle. Trump won a majority of White, non-Hispanic voters while Clinton fell short; but Trump failed to capture the minority vote. Hillary Clinton adhered an 80-percentage point lead over Donald Trump with African American voters, capturing 88% of their vote. The gender gap in the 2016 election is similar to that in 2012. Women voters preferred Clinton over Trump, with a 12 percentage-point difference between the two. Men supported Trump at the same margin that women supported Hillary, with another 12-percentage point gap. The gender gap is the largest since 1972, but Trump’s numbers are consistent with that of 2000 and 2004 victor, President George W. Bush (Tyson and Manium, 2016).

While gender disparity was a large contender for voters, education could have been a stronger factor to predict voter turnout for a particular candidate. The college educated v. uneducated vote stacked in Trump’s favor. Those without a college degree overwhelmingly cast their ballot for the then Republican nominee. In years past, especially 2012 the Pew Research Center notes, education did not bare a large factor for voters, but in the subsequent presidential election, it was of a great divide between voters (Tyson and Manium, 2016).

The age factor did not deviate from precedents set in previous elections, with the exception of the millennial, youth generation votes that were not cast for Clinton. Older voters preferred Trump to Clinton, as in 2012 when older voters cast their ballot for Romney over Trump (Tyson and Manium, 2016).

These results are not unanticipated due to the amount of constituents who felt alienated by the Republican nominee’s claims. Demeitrus Williams, an African American and retired postal employee, expressed his disbelief that Donald Trump is trying to appeal to African Americans. Instead, he is making generalizations about African Americans and crime, that Black neighborhoods are “war zones (Fausset, et al. 2016).” On a campaign stop Donald Trump referred to a black supporter in his audience as “my African American”. The dialogue including Trump’s generalizations between Blacks and Trump compels us to believe that Blacks in the United States will have little to no appeal to vote for Donald Trump, or have reason to believe Trump will advance the interests of Blacks in America. Donald Trump paints Black Americans with a broad and negative brush, one that portrays every single Black person as living in Squalor, a prime example of Donald Trump’s alienation of blacks in the United States.

Hillary Clinton, former Democratic candidate, attempted to appeal to racial groups’ interests unlike Trump. Hillary Clinton’s main appeal to black voters was by addressing the massive problems within the United States’ criminal justice system that disproportionately affects Blacks. She vowed to address these issues by directly combating some of the very laws set in place by the ‘94 Crime Bill. One of the provisions of Violent Crimes and Law Enforcement Act Hillary Clinton promised to reform was the Strike system. Hillary Clinton’s proposed reform included, excluding non-violent drug crime, therefore non-violent drug offenses will no longer count as a strike and in turn reduce the time of prison sentences (Criminal Justice System 2016). Hillary Clinton touted her close relationships with influential black leaders such as Congressman Jim Clyburn and influential black groups like The Mothers of the Movement, affinity for these influential black leaders was used to increase affinity for Hillary Clinton and underline the fact that she was the candidate to advance black issues and has always been on the side of advancement of Black issues.

For Donald Trump there was almost a complete absence of interest on issues that the American Black community collectively focuses on. However, for a brief time period, Hillary’s validity in her efforts to help African Americans was questioned because of her husband. President Bill Clinton’s term began when crime was at the top of the agenda. Throughout the 1980s, violent crime was at an all time high. In 1980, President Richard Nixon ran with the intent to restore “law and order.” The 1980s were racked with an increase in violent crime, as well as a response to the “War on Drugs.” His favorability after passing this bill increased, until later in his term. Hillary Clinton supported the passing of H.R. 3355, which was a small topic for debate during the  2016 election cycle. Because of this, we are proposing the research question: In the 2016 presidential election, does knowledge of the 1994 Crime Bill, or formally known as the Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act, influence candidate favorability of Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton?

Here, we believe Clinton’s favorability could be harmed because of the negative consequences of the 1994 Crime Bill. While the original bill sought to support minority groups, and benefit all, it had the opposite effect, and namely on minorities. After 1994, with a higher budget for law enforcement, which could lead to the opportunity for more arrests, and an expanded number of organizations, associations, etc. that would support the criminal justice system: there was a rise in the number of those arrested. Literature, particular Lerman and Weaver’s Arresting Citizenship, points to the influence of changes in law enforcement practices, that allowed the patrolling of lower-income neighborhoods which would house more minority groups rather than a majority white population (2014). The increase in arrests was due to the abundance of drug-related charges, and the numbers of those incarcerated remain elevated in 2016. Techniques like “stop and frisk” and apparent-aversion to police contact, have increased the number of citizens that are stopped, and subsequently arrested (Lerman and Weaver 2014). But does this increase in incarceration create distrust with the government? Would this lead to a decrease in favorability of a candidate for what her husband passed in 1994? We believe negative experiences with the government lend distrust, and that is found in Lerman and Weaver’s text. Therefore, we assume that the inherent distrust with the government, because of negative experiences with the carceral state, will result in the lack of trust within the former Democratic candidate.

Race is a socially constructed category that stigmatizes the black population. It is not defined by biology or physical attributes, rather by treatment of the group, which is upheld by laws. Davis argues perceptions of African Americans are based on “publicly held beliefs about race and racial mixing, not on scientific conclusions (1992, 30).” The United States has a history of enacting racist policies and establishing discriminatory institutions–the criminal justice system, included. Blacks’ positions in society are established based on public opinion and systematic racism (Davis 1992).

African Americans’ lower status in institutions and social hierarchies contributes to their exposure to crime. The portion of African Americans that make up the custodial citizen population–those who have been exposed to the criminal justice system, including stops by the police, arrested, and/or incarcerated–are disproportionate to Whites. A substantial number of Blacks have negative experiences with the police and criminal justice system. Feelings of isolation and segregation from society commonly occur, and influence Blacks’ interpretations of race and racial meaning in America. Understanding the criminal justice system as a “race-making institution” is imperative to understanding why African Americans have a negative sentiment toward crime (Lerman and Weaver, 2014).

Existing false ideas that social issues, political symbols, and legislation are consistently race-neutral or colorblind, contributes to systemic racism. The criminal justice system is covertly racialized. Racial symbols are employed to incite fear of “criminal” African Americans in White, Anglo-Saxons. The increase of crime throughout the 1980s resulted in prioritizing crime as urgent on the political agenda. H.R. 3355 developed from these fears, to reduce all violent crime and increase policing (Wheelock and Hartmann 2007). Not explicitly addressing African Americans as a source of crime, H.R. 3355 had real, racial implications. Inadvertently upholding racialized policing correlates with African Americans continued negative confrontations with the carceral state. Police officers determined “what constitutes ‘suspicious behavior’” (Wheelock and Hartmann 2007,157) and how individuals, particularly low-income minorities, should look or act.

Lerman and Weaver point to important factors that lead to suspicion of blacks, that further the idea that blacks are incarcerated more, are sought out more and are affected by crime the most (2014). In Arresting Citizenship, low-income, a lack of an education, presence in a poor neighborhood, were factors that led to suspicion. Then it was warranted that officers were able to search the individual, after the initial stop, and if a cause was found, then officers were able to arrest that person (Lerman and Weaver 2014). Interviewees in the book felt targeted by law enforcement, and it is apparent in the unequal black to white incarceration. An example is used in Lerman and Weaver’s book about the idea that whites and blacks are both doing the same drugs, but it is just one racial group that is being found with the drugs and facing punishment from the possession (2014). The book also touches on another example. If one is in a neighborhood that is known to be of low-income, and a resident of that neighborhood calls the police, they are not likely to hear from officers as quickly as a white resident of the same city or town is to. For some interviewees, they mentioned that they would not call the police in situations that help was needed (Lerman and Weaver 2014). A woman called the police asking for help to make her boyfriend leave her apartment, but the police came and began questioning her as if there was something she had done wrong, instead of assuming the responsibility to help the woman forcing her boyfriend to leave (Lerman and Weaver 2014).

W.E.B DuBois described his concept of Black individuals in American society and how he believes powerful group consciousness exists in the eyes of African Americans. Alienation, disenfranchisement, discrimination, and abuse denied Blacks from viewing their group as equal to White Americans. Their identity as African Americans was forged into a consciousness, one that separates them from other minority groups. Blacks have a strong sentiment to their racial group, believing they are less advantaged than average Americans. Analysis by Lyubanski and Eidelson (2005) show that those who are more educated are more likely to see their racial group as disadvantaged. African Americans are aware and responsive to systemic racism within legislation and institutions.

History of the Bill

The 1994 Violent Crimes and Law Enforcement Act, informally known as H.R. 3355, was enacted under President William Jefferson Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s husband, has been a topic of debate since its formulation and legitimation. Wheelock and Hartmann viewed the intentions of the legislation as a way to appeal to both Democrats and Republicans. By calling for more law and order, 100,000 new police officers, expansion of the death penalty and the creation of new prison, it was garnered to gain support from some Republicans (2007). Democrats were appears by the creation of social programs aimed at at-risk youth and crime prevention, as well as the banning of assault weapons. Although the architects of the bill wrote it to attract both sides of the aisle, there was pushback by some members of the Republican party. Since weapons restricting legislation was outlined within the bill, powerful guns lobbyists from the National Rifle Association, commonly known as the NRa, launched a campaign to eliminate the section that would ban assault weapons. The large cost of “unnecessary programs and provisions” were also a concern, furthering Republican apprehension to support the legislation (Wheelock and Hartmann 2007).

Race, although unexamined at the time of the bill, had an impact that swayed both parties support, for what is now H.R. 3355. During the formulation, a section called the Racial Justice Act was included, and contained measures to minimize disparities among people of color and Whites’ death penalty sentencings and more. The action was supported by the Congressional Black Caucus, which was predominantly home to Democrats. The section was thrown out to aid the bill in gaining support from Republicans. These provisions would have helped H.R. 3355 become less racially charged by accounting for and rectifying the systematic racism in the United States. The bill itself was ostensibly racially neutral, despite verbiage legally acknowledging “midnight sports league programs”, or “midnight basketball”, predominantly associated with men of color in urban areas. Wheelock and Hartmann argued that is recognition of racial issues, without naming them, targeted minorities in such a way that was disguised as simple legislation that is racially coded, was passed without the public assigning it as such (2007). While H.R. 3355 maintained a racialized target, the system in the United States has been tainted with a racialized punishment to match it. Previous research conducted by Wheelock and Hartmann (2007) about the racial coding of H.R. 3355 helped us formulate our search question and hypothesis.

Research on the death penalty finds that the United States is one of the few nations that continues to practice it. Within the realm of our hypothesis, and ideas that we have gathered around the ideas of criminal justice, race, punishment and different outcomes, the usage of the death penalty and its institution in the 1994 Crime Bill raises a few questions, and it could be related to the attempt to oppress black without the usage of Jim Crow laws. In the 1990s the United States was one of seven different countries to to sentence people under the age of 18 to the death penalty, and in the 2000s one of four countries that accounted for 80 percent of “known executions” (Soss, Langbein and Metelko 2003). While the United States is one of the only remaining countries that continues supporting the death penalty, the public sentiment toward capital punishment has fluctuated and reached its peak in 1994 (Soss, Langbein and Metelko 2003). This is an interesting time for capital punishment to see its peak, as the Crime Bill was passed in the same year, after seeing it tabled for the previous six years. It is a possibility that social sentiment for the death penalty allowed for the passage of the Crime Bill, but we are unsure of the validity of that statement, as it has not been tested.

Nancy Marion tells us in a 1997 edition of the Buffalo Criminal Law Review that Clinton ran his 1992 Presidential Campaign with a “tough on crime” outlook, that was confirmed in his proceedings over four executions during his time as the Governor of Arkansas. Clinton viewed crime in the realms of conservatism (Marion 1997). After the passage of the Crime Bill, the 1995 Congress sought to “make it easier to imposes the death penalty,” (Marion 1997, 87). Then, Clinton grew worried of the fate of the new bill (Marion 1997). The President of the United States, at the time, looked to secure the bill as it has been passed, while the Republican controlled House and Senate promised to,
“re-write the 1994 crime bill to add new mandatory minimum sentences, make it easier to impose the death penalty, and transfer money from crime prevention to prison construction. The Republicans also wanted strong truth-in-sentencing, “good faith” exclusionary rule exemptions, and additional law enforcement officers to keep people secure in their neighborhoods and children safe in their schools”, (Marion 1997, 87),

When it comes to sentencing for minorities, variables such as race, gender and age are critical in decision making (Steffensmeier, Ulmer and Kramer 1998). Steffensmeier, Ulmer and Kramer analyse how the previously mentioned variables are imperative to a jury when making a decision for a suspect on trial. Sentences can also be made by precedent. Judges have “attributed meaning to past and future behavior consistent with stereotypes associated with membership in social categories (Steffensmeier, Ulmer and Kramer 1998). The bill could give a wider range of opportunity to incarcerate minorities, specifically African Americans and Latinos.

Nancy Marion, in 1997 for the Buffalo Criminal Law Review, reviewed the steps and outcomes of the, then, newly passed 1994 Crime Bill. In the Constitution, states maintain the power to oversee the handling, prosecution, sentencing and management of those in the incarceration system, or those that have come in contact with the carceral state. Marion touches on the importance of the fact that the 1994 Crime Bill was in its truest form, a symbolic policy, that looked to the American public, as something that would curtail the crime issues that were occurring in the United States. Since the state held most of the most of the jurisdiction when handling crimes, Marion also states that 95 percent of crime occurs on the local or state level, and 6 percent of prisoners at the time, in 1997, were on the federal level (which can be handled with the provision of the Violent Crimes and Law Enforcement Act), which would lend the piece of legislation to be largely inadequate to the curtailing of crime, for the lack of the jurisdiction to do so.

The bill looked to expand law enforcement with increased budgets, welfare programs for help with drug addictions, three-strikes policy, harsher penalties for violent crimes, then more prisons to house those that would face harsher sentences for violent crimes and programs for youth labeled as “at-risk”, to name a few (Marion 1997). While Clinton ran for the presidency as the Democratic candidate and served the State of Arkansas as a democratic governor, President Clinton sought to control the crime issue with an agenda that was largely conservative, which would found in several different portions of the bill (Marion 1997).

Sentencing was becoming harsher with the outlook of the Republican Congress and Clinton’s inherently conservative outlook on crime (Marion 1997). During his time as the Governor of Arkansas, Clinton supported the institution of the death penalty, and it was implemented in the Crime Bill that passed (Marion 1997). Marion said in the 1995 Congressional Agenda, there were six bills introduced, but not all are listed, that would create minimum sentences, give funds for the construction of new prisons, but not for correctional facilities, as well as the passage of block grants that would allow for an increase in police officers and new programs that would seek to limit crime (Marion 1997).

Sentencing in this country has become an institution of racial identity, and gender, that influence punishment based upon an individual, rather than the crime committed. Steffensmeier, Ulmer and Kramer looked to find a relationship between being young, black and male (1998). The study finds that sentencing is influenced by 1) one’s identification as black and male, 2) racial identification is more important in young males rather than older males, 3) one’s age is more influential for a male than a female and 4) “the main effects of race, gender, and age are more modest compared to the very large differences in sentencing outcomes across certain ange-race-gender combinations”, (Steffensmeier, Ulmer and Kramer 1998 763).

In 1998, Steffensmeier, Ulmer and Kramer were in a time where there were two possibilities for the influence of race on sentencing: one that saw a decrease in its importance in punishment or that race was an important factor in specific types of cases.

The study Steffensmeier, Ulmer and Kramer sought to explain whether sentences were affected by age and gender, but as well as to confirm that the race factor has not diminished nor disappeared (Steffensmeier, Ulmer and Kramer 1998). The findings concluded, among other alternative explanation of race-age-gender factors, that young black men receive the harshest sentences. This demonstrates, whether criminal punishment was becoming harsher or not because of the 1994 Crime Bill, the role of race exists in punishment. Then if sentencing became harsher, and the data to demonstrate the relationship between race and punishment, then the increase in African American incarceration rates would naturally rise.

The framework that has built a racialized incarceration system has been built on the success of the Civil Rights Movement (Wheelock and Hartmann 2007). These actions, taken to continue to segregate whites from blacks, were created because of the failure of the system of white superiority, that would create the idea of racial equality, but that is not what the majority population wished to see (Wheelock and Hartmann 2007). The implementation of racial codes were created to continue oppression of blacks (Wheelock and Hartmann 2007). Wheelock and Hartmann said that “racial codes are believed to be strategically deployed by conservative figure  heads and received by a passive and complacent mass public, serving only to generate public opposition to policies or individuals understood as assisting minority groups, “Wheelock and Hartmann 2007, 318).

The Center for American Progress tells us about the racial disparities that are apparent in our criminal justice system (Kerby 2012). Primarily, Kerby tells us that African Americans are more likely to be incarcerated than whites, but also the system creates a manner to continue to oppress blacks. While blacks are not more likely to do drugs than whites, (Lerman and Weaver 2014) (Kerby 2012), communities that are largely black are more likely to be patrolled for the relief of the “War on Drugs”, and when found guilty, blacks are more likely to be more severely punished in comparison to whites. Kerby mentions the disparity of blacks incarcerated for drugs, “African Americans comprise 14 percent of regular drug users but are 37 percent of those arrested for drug offenses. From 1980 to 2007 about one in three of the 25.4 million adults arrested for drugs was African American”, (Kerby 2012, 3).

Upon conviction blacks are more likely to receive longer sentences comparatively to whites, who have been charged and sentenced for the same crime (Kerby 2012). As well as longer convictions, blacks are more likely to receive “mandatory-minimum sentences”, ones similar to those put in the 1994 Crime Bill on the federal level, while whites are sent to prison instead of receiving the same punishment, for, more often than not, the same or similar crime (Kirby 2012). Therefore, proving a racialized criminal justice system, and pointing to the reasoning behind our study because is this racialization of the criminal justice system, that has been translated into an increased number, disproportionate to their portion of the population, of blacks in the criminal justice system going to negatively affect the wife of the President who passed their bill? That is what we look to find, and whether Hillary Clinton’s portrait of the bill in the 2016 Presidential Election affected her favorability amongst minorities.

When looking at the effects of the Crime Bill on Hillary Clinton’s popularity, prior to the knowledge of the bill and the unequally negative effects, in the past, present and future, on minorities: it is important to understand and clearly view Clinton’s current views on the bill. Clinton clearly views the passage of the bill could shape the respondents who are in support of her or have knowledge of her beliefs and opinions on the bill’s passage, implementation and lasting effects. Since the start of Clinton’s campaign for the 2016 election, there have been questions about her support, and her role, relating to the 1994 Crime Bill. Hillary has been asked of her opinion of H.R. 3355, “great demand, not just from American writ large, but from the black community, to get tougher on crime,” (Hinton, Kohler-Hausmann 2016). While backing up her support of the bill at the time of its proposition, she admitted her opposition to its shortcomings, and the unfair subsequent effects on minorities.

Group and Individual Responses to Crime

We find in readings provided in class, that a strong sense of group consciousness is found between African Americans that can be derived upon historical context in this country (Dawson 1994) (Davis 1992). That sense of solidarity, also referred to as group consciousness, is found in several different variables. Literature tells us that education, religion, ideology, etc. tend to be similar to those that ascribe to a group identity between African Americans. But the literature does not touch on the impact of the carceral state on group identity, and with this data, this could identify a relationship, if one exists.

The idea of solidarity is one in which “those with a greater sense of solidarity are more likely to see themselves as personal victims of discrimination, to perceive widespread discrimination against blacks as a group, to belong to an organization intended to improve the status of blacks, and to work in developing the black community,” (Bledsoe 1995). Those that are exposed to the discrimination, instead of just perceiving it, are likely seeing the pushback from the criminal justice system. Therefore it is possible for the factor of the system, to be individual or a group response to crime.

It is possible that African Americans relate interactions with the criminal justice system on an individual basis. While a larger percentage of blacks are incarcerated than whites, it does not mean that each member of the black community have experiences with the criminal justice system. Examples in Lerman and Weaver’s book, Arresting Citizenship, that some blacks do not seem themselves related to those that, are in the carceral state. Bill Cosby and others discuss the importance to let go of the criminal aspects of one’s appearance, “blacks needs to stop speaking ebonics, pull their pants up, keep their noses clean, stay in school and learn to be self reliant, “ (Lerman and Weaver 2014, 167). Cosby also touched on the fact that “low-income minority communities” are more likely to be negatively affected by crime than other communities. Here, the idea of an individual response to the criminal justice system seems to be one that is accepted amongst black elites, but it does not mean that the remainder of the community, particularly one that is more intertwined with those likely to be incarcerated.

While it is explained earlier in chapter seven, that there are blacks who feel that blame is not be placed on whites, it seems as if the response to the criminal justice system is individually based. Further in the chapter, Lerman and Weaver discuss the less-politicized linked fate that is being created with the rise of the racialized incarceration system, in contrast to the linked fate that was built during the time of Jim Crow.

The outward perception of the criminal justice system based upon stereotypes, that prisons are overrun by non-white citizens due to the minority population being overrepresented. This perception can then lead to a belief that all minorities, particularly African Americans, all, or a majority see the inter-workings of the criminal justice system. If a majority of the population believes in that idea, then does it mean that a group identity is built around something like the carceral state?

We are hoping that information gathered from this survey will lend more support to an idea of group or individual responses to the criminal justice system. Our expectations led us to three competing hypotheses:

H0: In a comparison of individuals, African Americans are no more or less likely to favor Hillary Clinton after exposure to H.R. 3355 statistics.

H1: In a comparison of individuals, African Americans are more likely to find Hillary Clinton favorable after exposure to H.R.3355 statistics.

H2: In a comparison of individuals, African Americans are less likely to find Hillary Clinton favorable after exposure to H.R. 3355 statistics.


To measure candidate favorability, we deployed a survey from November 14 through December 4, 2016. This was post election cycle. Our survey was distributed via snowball sampling, causing us to reach a small sample size of 164, composed of mostly millennials, aged 18-35. A majority of our respondents were White, with only 11 African Americans present, and 17 Hispanics. Almost all were currently enrolled in college. Overall, we saw a wide range of party identification, but the mass were Democrats. Each participant was presented with a pre and post treatment. Before asking any demographic information, we displayed a feeling thermometer, and asked respondents their views of Hillary Clinton. The scores range from zero to 100, with zero being unfavorable and 100 favorable. We chose to expose respondents to the pre treatment first so demographic questions can be utilized as a barrier between the pre and post treatments. This will help eliminate some bias. Participants were also exposed to a brief, non-bias synopsis of the bill, to control for those who are unaware of the content and origin of the bill. They were presented with:

The 1994 Crime Bill, formally known as the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, was enacted to allocate 100,000 more police officers, 9.7 billion dollars for prisons and 6.1 billion dollars for prevention programs. The prevention programs were designed by experienced police officers.

The bill expanded federal laws in many ways. The sections included, but are not limited to, Federal Assault Weapons ban, expansion of the death penalty, new segmentations of individuals that would be unable to possess firearms, new definitions of statues for immigration law, hate crimes, sex crimes, violence against women and gang-related crimes. This bill introduced a sex offender registry.

Hillary Clinton supported the implementation of this legislation.

Respondents were later exposed to two graphics depicting an increase in incarceration rates post 1994. After reviewing African American and National incarceration rates, the post treatment was administered. An post favorability feeling thermometer identical to the pre treatment closed the survey. We then looked at the average differences between the pre and post treatment.

For our analysis, we chose to evaluate candidate favorability alternatively to vote choice. Favorability is more accurate when analyzing human subjects due to the high volume of constituents whom overreport their voting behavior. The most common occurrence of overreporting is among those who self-report their choices on written or oral mediums, such as during surveys or reports (Belli, et al. 1999). Constructing our research design to include favorability minimizes this error, allowing us to report more accurate results.

While our focus remained on the favorability of African American respondents, due to the heavier connection with the carceral state in previous studies, we used Hispanic respondents to compare overall minority sentiments, and in contrast to white respondents.


Figure 1 shows Hillary Clinton’s favorability by race. What we see is that on average, African Americans, Whites, and Hispanics did not view Hillary Clinton as entirely unfavorable. The data shows us that the only racial group that viewed Hillary Clinton as totally unfavorable, with a score of zero, are Whites. This is what brought the average down to 52.52, less favorable than other racial groups. We also see that there is minimal positive change after being exposed to the treatment. This racial group had the highest amount of Republicans, but still the majority were Democrats. African Americans had the most favorability change, with a net of 3.7 points. We also see in Figure 2 that a majority of African Americans surveyed were Democrats, which could explain such high favorability both pre and post treatment. Most of the Hispanics surveyed also identified with Democrats.

Figure 3 shows favorability by gender. Here we can see that females across all racial groups, on average, viewed Hillary Clinton as more favorable than males. Figure 4 shows more interesting results. Although the three racial groups sampled increased favorability for Hillary Clinton on average, analyzing favorability by race and gender shows a different finding. Both African American and Hispanic females decreased their support by roughly six points after exposure to the treatment.


We failed to reject our null hypothesis due to a lack of African American respondents. What we could find, and assumptions made by the eleven responses provided, that the incarceration rates did not largely affect respondents. This could be true because of a lack of interaction of the carceral state, or a lack of the variables that lead to increased minority incarceration rates in states, i.e. expanded patrol of low-income neighborhoods, an abundant minority population, the law enforcement that would be able to do something of this scale. Cross-identified with Hispanic respondents, there seems to be a trend between minority identification and an upward trend in Clinton’s favorability, and the same holds true for white respondents. If more minorities are being incarcerated because of the provisions of the 1994 Crime Bill, more than likely unaware of that bill’s consequences on the incarceration system, it would be assumed that a candidate’s favorability would drop, even in the slightest degree, rather than seeing an increase.

It is possible that due to these respondents, that criminal justice is seen on an individual scale rather than a group identity. If respondents believed in the criminal justice system as a matter of their group consciousness, or sentiment of solidarity, then there would be a decrease in the degree of favorability for Clinton.

While a shift did not occur for a racial identity, a shift occurred for black females and Hispanic females, and for Hispanic and black males, just in the opposite direction.

Hispanic females’ pre-treatment favorability was 82.4. After receiving the treatment of the increased African American incarceration rates, Hispanic females identified their favorability of the Democratic candidate, decreasing to, 75.67. The same trend occurred for black females. The initial favorability for female blacks was 66.75 and decreased to 59.5 after the treatment was presented.

This gender discrepancy raises interesting questions. A possible critique of our study is the manner the information was presented. While we assumed respondents would bridge the information from Point A to Point B, with the racial implications of the 1994 Crime Bill and the increase in African American incarceration rates, it was not presented in the information. But from the visible decrease from minority female respondents, it poses whether they were able to read between the lines, as to the meaning of the information, or whether their identification with the minority population originally influenced their favorability and then further influenced their second answer after the treatment.

While minority females responded similarly, resulting in a negative trend of favorability post-treatment, black females originally favored Hillary Clinton less than black males, but the same trend did not occur for Hispanics.

This could tie to the closer relationship that blacks share with the incarceration system. While it is stereotypical for black men to be a member of the carceral state, it is possible that black women have interactions with the criminal justice system, but not because of breaking the law, but because of loved ones being tied to the system, and its negative effects. African Americans tend to demonstrate a strong group solidarity, as found in Davis readings, and the analysis of group responses in Lerman and Weaver, would lend us to believe that the influence of the carceral state extends to those that are not directly affiliated with it, but those that are directed affected by it.

Information on group solidarity for Latinos describes that a community sentiment is not as strong, because of the differences between American-born Hispanics and those who immigrant to America (Fraga and Segura 2006).

It can be said if that conclusion is valid, then the men who responded to the survey, either did not read between the lines to the meaning of the bill to the treatment, or they do not view the increase in incarceration the same as females do. The conclusion from the decrease cannot be found to relate to other variables, because the study was not created to find outside variables that could influence their answers.

Implications of Our Research

We didn’t control for income – we think since we sampled mostly college students, they aren’t as exposed to crime because they might not be low income. However, we cannot assume this because the data is not there.

We expected them to read between the lines, the increase among all racial groups could be because they saw it as good, or because their mind was already made up since our survey was ran after the election. How do we know African Americans in Oklahoma encounter the criminal justice system at the same rate as blacks across the country? Some states, namely New York, had aggressive police officer policies that allowed for an increase in the number of stopped, frisked and then possibly arrested that would lead to another extensive search.

It is possible that the survey, of this magnitude, would need to be captured on a national scale. In Oklahoma, the criminal justice system incarcerates more women than men. A lack of the African American population, coupled with the lack of law enforcement targeting low-income black neighborhoods, could have led to the absence of the correct atmosphere for the results that we were anticipating. Due to our lack of findings, we encourage more study.

Works Cited

Belli, R., Traugott, M., Young, M., & McGonagle, K. (1999). Reducing Vote Overreporting in

Surveys: Social Desirability, Memory Failure, and Source Monitoring. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 63(1), 90-108. Retrieved from

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Appendix A

Figure 1:

Figure 1. Favorability by Race
Race Pre Treatment Post Treatment
African American 72.73 76.43
White 52.52 53.38
Hispanic 76.76 77.31
Source: Survey Data

Figure 2:

Figure 2. Party Identification by Race
Race Democrat Republican Independent Do Not Identify
African American 8 1 1 1
White 35 24 16 7
Hispanic 12 0 2 1
Source: Survey Data

Figure 3:

Figure 3. Favorability by Gender
Gender Pre Treatment Post Treatment
Male 50.65 56.77
Female 59.57 58.62
Source: Survey Data

Figure 4:

Figure 4. Favorabilty by Race and Gender
  Pre Treatment Post Treatment
Race Male Female Male Female
African American 76.14 66.75 83.2 59.5
White 44.27 55.36 49.79 57.53
Hispanic 70 82.4 81 75.67
Source: Survey Data

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