Biggers, D.R. (2019). Can the Backlash Against Voter ID Laws Activate Minority Voters? Experimental Evidence Examining Voter Mobilization Through Psychological Reactance. Political Behavior. Published Online, 2019 Dceember 7. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11109-019-09587-0
Research on the participatory consequences of electoral reforms that increase voting costs largely ignores how the perception that those efforts’ purpose is to disenfranchise certain individuals may affect turnout. Leveraging psychological reactance theory, I test whether invoking that perception activates African Americans (who disproportionately bear those higher costs). A survey experiment shows that framing the most prevalent ballot access restriction, voter identification laws, as designed to keep Blacks from voting increases reactance among this group, reduces their support for ID laws, and raises the perceived threat to their franchise. However, three field experiments on African American registrants find that this message fails to mobilize subjects in general and provide at best limited evidence that this argument spurs elderly Black participation. The results signal that emphasizing the perception that increased voting costs are designed to reduce turnout can alter attitudes but may not ultimately change behavior (i.e., the decision to vote).
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