Government Department alums, Dr. Allison Anoll, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University, and Dr. Drew Engelhardt, Assistant Professor of the University of North Carolina, Greensboro are the recipients of the 2022 Roberta Sigel Award for Best Conference Paper awarded by the International Society of Political Psychology (ISPP). Their paper, “A Drop in the Ocean: How Priors Anchor Attitudes Toward the American Carceral State,” is currently under review for publication.
According to Engelhardt, the paper explores “why Black Americans and White Americans have rather substantially different beliefs about the criminal justice system.” This difference “is often explained by two facts: Black folks typically have more experiences with actors like the police and courts than do White people and these experiences are much more negative. It is these direct experiences, especially if they're recent, which explain these different opinions about, for instance, whether police forces need reforming. Our research comes at this variance of opinion from a different angle. We propose that once Black Americans enter adulthood, they've already received a lot of information about the criminal justice system. Their parents teach them about it, they have experiences while in school, etc. Consequently, as an adult, if a Black person is hassled by a police officer, this doesn't provide them any new information about the criminal justice system; it's consistent with what they grew up hearing and experiencing. In contrast, if a White person is hassled by a police officer, this experience is new for them because they grew up hearing and experiencing different things. Put together, we argue, and find, that recent direct experiences contribute more to differences in opinions among White folks than Black folks. We also find this difference comparing men and women within racial backgrounds; direct experiences have a stronger bearing on women's opinions than men's. Our results thus indicate that improving opinions about the criminal justice system are unlikely to be found only in changing policing practices. Instead, it may take generational change as people come of age with different experiences connected to the criminal justice system.”
Anoll and Engelhardt attribute their accomplishments to their experiences with the William & Mary Government Department. As Dr. Engelhardt noted: “It's fun to think about this work because I wouldn't be in political science if it hadn't been for my undergraduate experience in government and the encouragement and input of different faculty, especially: Ron Rapoport, Paul Manna, and Jaime Settle. All the better I get to work with a fellow alum on this project.”
Dr. Anoll added that “William and Mary and the Government Department prepared me in so many ways for the work that I do now. From the freshman seminar on Citizens and the Community that I took with Dr. Joel Schwartz to the senior seminar on Education Policy I took with Dr. Paul Manna, I learned about pressing policy issues and how social science can be used as a tool to find solutions. The best people to do research with, I have found, are scholars with William and Mary connections. In fact, the data Drew and I used for this paper (Race and Carceral State Survey) was collected in conjunction with another William & Mary scholar — Dr. Mackenzie Israel-Trummel.”
The Government Department congratulates Dr. Allison Anoll and Dr. Drew Engelhardt on their accomplishments.