The Political Consequences of Policing: Evidence from New York City
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This paper explores the effect that municipal policing can exert on politics, and specifically investigates the effect that Stop, Question, and Frisk (SQF) policing has had on voter turnout and candidate choice in New York City. While extant studies of the American criminal justice system have found that mass incarceration and felon disenfranchisement negatively impact political participation and engagement, few have explicitly explored policing’s relationship with politics and fewer still consider its mobilizing potential. Mobilizing data from over 2.7 million geo-coded police stops and data from a series of national and municipal elections this paper uncovers a pattern of voter demobilization, voter mobilization, and candidate choice that cannot be anticipated from extant studies in the literature. Specifically, it finds that while concentrated policing was associated with reductions in voter turnout in the 2006 and 2010 midterm elections, it was associated with higher rates of turnout in the 2008 presidential election and 2013 Democratic primary and general mayor. Further analysis demonstrates that stopping intensity was strongly associated with candidate choice in the 2013 Democratic mayoral primary, such that higher rates of policing were positively associated with support for the candidate (John Liu) who advocated for eliminating SQF and less support for the candidate (William Thompson) who supported SQF. Together, these findings highlight the impact that policing can exert on political behavior, characterize the impact that harmful policing policies can play in instigating policing participation and engagement, and foreground the importance of considering local criminal justice policy and political action.
KeywordsPolicing Stop and Frisk Voter turnout Carceral state Policy threat
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