- Roughly 75% of people do not agree with Sen. Bernie Sanders that all prisoners should have voting rights, according to a new INSIDER poll.
- Overall, 35% said current inmates should be allowed to vote, but most of those people said this should only apply to non-violent offenders.
- The poll found 24% of people believe those convicted of violent offenses should be permanently disenfranchised, even after release from prison.
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The vast majority of Americans – roughly 75% – do not support Sen. Bernie Sanders’ proposal to enfranchise all prisoners, but many are open to giving voting rights to non-violent inmates, according to a new INSIDER poll.
Only 15% of respondents said all prisoners – regardless of their crimes – should keep their voting rights while behind bars. Meanwhile, 20% said only prisoners convicted of non-violent offenses should be allowed to vote.
During a CNN town hall last Monday, the Vermont senator was asked to clarify if he supports voting rights for people like the Boston Marathon bomber or people convicted of rape. Sanders replied that even “terrible people” should be allowed to vote, contending that disenfranchising any group of people is a “slippery slope.”
Based on our poll, approximately 35% of voters are supportive of enfranchising currently incarcerated people in some capacity, but most of these people aren’t willing to go as far as Sanders.
Beyond those that believe current prisoners should vote, roughly 30% said currently incarcerated people should lose their right to vote, but be re-enfranchised when they’re released. 24% of respondent said those convicted of violent felonies should permanently lose voting rights.
And approximately 10% of respondents said they “don’t know” how they feel about this issue.
The poll also found a stark divide in views on this issue along party lines: Nearly half of likely Democratic primary voters (47%) support enfranchising prisoners in some capacity compared to about 21% of likely Republican primary voters.
Along the 2020 campaign trail, Sanders has repeatedly said he supports voting rights for all prisoners.
Sanders’ idea has been attacked by Republicans including Sen. Lindsey Graham, Vice President Mike Pence, and President Donald Trump. The suggestions has also sparked a divisive conversation among 2020 Democrats.
In defence of his position, the senator has pointed to the fact Vermont and Maine already enfranchise current inmates, while also noting it’s the status quo in many countries around the world.
Experts are fairly split on the topic, though some say allowing inmates to vote could be a crucial aspect of criminal justice reform.
INSIDER asked respondents: “Do you think people who are convicted of a crime should keep their right to vote while incarcerated?” Respondents were then asked to select which of these six choices best reflected their view: “I think all incarcerated people should keep their right to vote”; “I think that incarcerated people convicted of a non-violent offence should keep their right to vote, but not those convicted of violent offenses”; “I don’t think incarcerated people should keep their right to vote, but upon release they should have their right restored”; “I think people convicted of violent felonies should lose their right to vote permanently”; “I think people convicted of any felony should lose their right to vote permanently”; and “I don’t know.”
SurveyMonkey Audience polls from a national sample balanced by census data of age and gender. Respondents are incentivized to complete surveys through charitable contributions. Generally speaking, digital polling tends to skew toward people with access to the internet. SurveyMonkey Audience doesn’t try to weight its sample based on race or income. Total 1,144 respondents collected April 26-27, 2019, a margin of error plus or minus 3.07 percentage points with a 95% confidence level.
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