Race, Xenophobia, and Punitiveness Among the American Public

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We outline four connections between xenophobia and punitiveness toward criminals in a national sample of Americans. First, among self-identified whites xenophobia is more predictive of punitiveness than specific forms of racial animus. Second, xenophobia and punitiveness are strongly connected among whites, but are only moderately and weakly related among black and Hispanic Americans, respectively. Third, among whites substantial proportions of the variance between sociodemographic, political, and religious predictors of punitiveness are mediated by levels of xenophobia. Finally, xenophobia is the strongest overall predictor of punitiveness among whites. Overall, xenophobia is an essential aspect of understanding public punitiveness, particularly among whites.