Large Majorities Favor Congressional Proposals Limiting Negative Consequences of Criminal Records


Large majorities of American voters support reforms that would limit or remove barriers to economic opportunities, housing, and voting for people with criminal records.

A representative sample of 2,487 American voters were given a detailed presentation of numerous proposed Congressional reforms that would restrict employers, licensing boards and public housing authorities from disqualifying people based on their criminal records. All of the proposed reforms received support from large bipartisan majorities. A proposal for automatically restoring the right to vote for people who have served a felony sentence also received majority support, though Republicans were divided.

Additionally, bipartisan majorities favored both making it easier for those who were arrested but never convicted to have their record sealed, as well as automatically sealing records for people with non-violent drug offenses after a short period of time.


In the innovative survey by the Program for Public Consultation (PPC) at the University of Maryland, respondents were given relevant background information for each proposal. They then evaluated a series of strongly stated arguments for and against each proposal before making their final recommendation. The briefing material and arguments were reviewed by experts representing the range of opinions on the issue to assure that the briefings were accurate and balanced and that the arguments were the strongest ones being made.