A Second Chance in the Sunshine State: Religious Identity and Voter Support for Re-Enfranchisement in Florida

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Research has shown religion to be an important predictor of attitudes toward state punishment, yet religious identity has rarely been included in studies of public opinion toward felon disenfranchisement. In November 2018, voters in Florida passed Amendment 4, the “Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative,” to re-enfranchise Floridians who have completed all the terms of their felony sentences, excluding those convicted of murder or sexual offenses. This study centers on the potential relationship between religious identity, particularly for evangelical Protestants, and punitiveness by examining religious identity as a predictor of attitudes toward felon disenfranchisement. Using data from a 2018 statewide survey of likely Florida voters, this study examines the effect of religious identity and other sociodemographic factors, such as race, on attitudes toward felon disenfranchisement. Results demonstrate that probable voters who identify as evangelical Protestant are less supportive of Amendment 4 (versus non-religious), controlling for other demographics previously found to be significant in the literature. The lack of support for voter re-enfranchisement among evangelical Protestants suggests they take a more punitive stance on this issue. Our findings demonstrate the continued salience of religious identity and the need for its inclusion in future studies examining attitudes toward felon disenfranchisement.

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Sociological Inquiry

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