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Implicit Racial Bias, Community Context, and Perceptions of Crime and Justice

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2014, $49,679)

Dramatic changes in race relations and racial attitudes have occurred in the more than one hundred years since Du Bois began publishing his seminal social scientific research on race. The modern public generally rejects explicitly racist sentiments and policies -something reflected symbolically in the election and re election of a president with substantial African ancestry. At the same time, however, the country currently physically detains and controls a staggering percentage of young black men - the largest percentage since slavery - through the criminal justice system. How is it that such racial disproportionality exists at a time when the public seems to explicitly reject racial motivations and overtly racist policies? The answer is that race continues to influence public perceptions and opinion just less visibly. The proposed work seeks to shed light on two potentially interrelated ways that race matters to public understandings of crime and justice. The first is that the racial context may influence people's understandings of purportedly non-racial issues - for instance perceived crime trends or preferences for law enforcement spending. The second is that implicit racial bias may influence perceptions of crime and justice in ways that do not show up in traditional surveys. The intersection of implicit measures of racial bias and the community racial context on perceptions of crime and justice has not previously been explored, and will have substantial implications for research and policy. Failing to highlight the persistent role of race in public opinion about crime and justice leaves us with the false impression that race no longer matters. This false impression, in turn, serves to perpetuate the problem by hiding or justifying existing inequalities. The proposed work will employ several existing sources of data: two nationally representative surveys collected by the American National Election Studies (ANES), socioeconomic and demographic data from the US Census, and crime data from the FBI. Both ANES surveys include an implementation of a priming-based measure of implicit bias, and one additionally contains a latency-based measure. The proposal is to link these surveys to measures of the local social context and to model their perceptions of crime and justice as a function of the racial context and implicit and explicit racial biasesall while controlling for a variety of alternative explanations for perceptions of crime and justice, including the crime context, victimization histories, and political ideologies. Expected products include peer-reviews academic publications, presentations, and a research brief for policy organizations. ca/ncf
Date Created: September 14, 2014