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Race–gender bias in white Americans’ preferences for gun availability

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 October 2020

Matthew Hayes
Rice University, Houston, USA
David Fortunato*
University of California, San Diego, USA and Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
Matthew V. Hibbing
University of California, Merced, USA
*Corresponding author. E-mail:


We argue that Americans’ policy attitudes on firearm availability are influenced by the identity of the prospective owner. We use an experiment to demonstrate that attitudes towards gun control/availability are influenced by both race and gender; whether subjects are primed to think of African-Americans versus whites or men versus women has a substantial impact on the degree to which they support firearm access. We find that for many white Americans, Black men and white women stand on opposite poles – priming white Americans with the thought of a Black man decreases support for gun availability, whereas priming the thought of a white woman increases support for gun availability. Further, the magnitude of this effect is quite large – comparable to the difference between Democrats and Republicans. These findings underscore the importance of thinking about the complicated role identity groups play in understanding Americans’ preferences for government (in)action, even in policy areas with explicit Constitutional mandates.

Research Article
© The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press

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