Race–gender Bias in White Americans’ Preferences for Gun Availability

Matthew Hayes, David Fortunato*, Matthew V. Hibbing

*Corresponding author for this work

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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.
Original languageEnglish
Article number17
JournalJournal of Public Policy
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)818-834
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Published online 16 October 2020.


  • Constitutional rights
  • Experiment
  • Gender
  • Gun
  • Race

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