HKS Authors

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How do media portrayals of potential policy beneficiaries’ identities sway public support for these policies in a public health setting? Using a pre-registered vignette experiment, we show that the racial identity of substance users depicted in news media shapes public opinion on policies to address the opioid crisis. People display biases in favor of their own racial identity group that manifest in their support for both treatment-based policies and punitive policies. We show that these biases may be moderated by the type of initial drug used by a substance user and associated levels of perceived blame. Extending theories of group politics, we also assess favoritism based on gender and residential context identities, but find no such biases. These results highlight the continued centrality of race in the formation of policy preferences.


de Benedictis Kessner, Justin, and Michael Hankinson. "How the Identity of Substance Users Shapes Public Opinion on Opioid Policy." Political Behavior 46.1 (March 2024): 609-629.