Sixty-seven percent of white Americans support voter ID laws, according to a new University of Delaware study of 1,436 U.S. adults. But when the voter ID question was accompanied by a photo of black people using a voting machine, white support for voter ID laws jumped to 73 percent. That six-percentage-point difference is modest but statistically significant. The images made no difference to black and hispanic voters’ preferences, although the authors note the sample sizes for those groups were considerably stronger. Among white voters, “the resulting increase in support for the laws happens independently of — even after controlling for— political ideology and negative attitudes about African Americans,” researcher David C. Wilson said in a release about the study. Many white Americans think racism is basically over, and some believe that racism against whites is actually a bigger problem than racism against blacks. But results like these show that racism is still very much active at the subconscious level.
Voter ID laws continue to enjoy broad support nationwide. A 2012 Pew Research Center survey showed that 79 percent of white registered voters and 62 percent of blacks said that voters should be required to show an official photo ID before they vote. Support was highest among Republicans (87 percent) and considerably lower among Americans ages 18 to 29 (64 percent).
Voter ID laws don’t do anything to stop certain types of voter fraud, such as vote buying, coercion, fake registrations, voting from the wrong address or ballot box stuffing. The laws are useful in stopping identity fraud, though there is general agreement among political scientists that this type of fraud is rare.