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Kevin Wozniak

Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Massachusetts Boston

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About Kevin

Wozniak studies the politics of punishment and criminal justice with a particular focus on public opinion. He teaches classes about the criminal justice system, mass incarceration, social policy, and social science research methods. Wozniak is knowledgeable about the American public’s attitudes toward the criminal justice system, as well as the ways in which public opinion affects public policy.  His most recent work explores how alternative ways of framing criminal justice policies affects people’s policy preferences. He is also a former Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association. During his fellowship, he worked as a legislative aid for Representative Robert C. “Bobby” Scott of the Third District of Virginia. He covered juvenile justice, gun control, and elementary and secondary education policy for Representative Scott.

In the News

Kevin Wozniak quoted on gun control in the U.S. by Dylan Matthews, "More Americans Say Guns are the Country’s Top Issue than Ever Have Before" Vox, March 29, 2018.
Guest to discuss Gun Control Protests on BBC World News, Kevin Wozniak, March 26, 2018.
Kevin Wozniak quoted on gun control in the United States by Dario Mizrahi, "Estados Unidos y Las Armas: Razones y Cifras de una Pasión Incontrolable a pesar de Las Tragedias" Infobae, October 7, 2017.
"American Public Opinion about Gun Control Remained Polarized and Politicized in the Wake of the Sandy Hook Mass Shooting," Kevin Wozniak, London School of Economics and Political Science Blog, May 28, 2015.


"Race and Policing in the 2016 Presidential Election: Black Lives Matter, the Police, and Dog Whistle Politics" (with Kevin Drakulich, John Hagan, and Devon Johnson). Crimonology 58, no. 2 (2020): 370-402.

Draws on colorblind racism theories and the history of law‐and‐order politics while exploring how views of race relations and the police were associated with voting behavior during the 2016 presidential election. Poses the question on the one hand, whether people were engaged with the civil rights issues raised by Black Lives Matter and, on the other hand whether Trump's expressions of support for the police functioned as a racial "dog whistle" to mobilize a particular set of voters.

"The Effect of Exposure to Racialized Cues on White and Black Public Support for Justice Reinvestment" Justice Quarterly (2019).

Uses racial priming theory to analyze black and white public opinion about the Justice Reinvestment Initiative with a particular emphasis on the choice of how to reinvest tax money. Tests whether exposure to racialized cue words affects people's willingness to invest money into the social infrastructure of neighborhoods of concentrated disadvantage versus invest money into the criminal justice system. Indicates no investment preference differences between people exposed to implicitly racialized cues and people exposed to no cues. 

"An Analysis of Black-White Racial Differences in Public Support for Nonviolent Sentencing Reform" Race and Justice (2018).

Examines public support for sentencing reform for nonviolent offenders situated within a justice reinvestment context. Pays particular attention to difference in support between White and Black Americans, and analyzes the degree to which ideological beliefs explain interracial differences. Finds that a larger number of both Black and White people support, rather than oppose, sentencing property and drug offenders to community-based sanctions instead of prison, but the likelihood that a person will express support or opposition is related to several ideological beliefs and demographic characteristics.

"Public Opinion about Gun Control Post-Sandy Hook" Criminal Justice Policy Review 28, no. 3 (2017): 255-278.

Analyzes data from a national public opinion poll conducted four months after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School; Finds that a slim majority of Americans favored a semiautomatic weapon ban and proposals to make gun control laws stricter, and a large majority supported a federal background check law.

"Race, Justice, Policing, and the 2016 American Presidential Election" (with Kevin Drakulich, Devon Johnson, and John Hagan). Du Bois Review (2016).

Finds that people who perceived the police to be biased against African Americans were significantly more likely to express support for Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump; Also finds that racist attitudes predicted support for Trump, and including racism in the analysis absorbed most of the relationship between perceptions of police bias and candidate preference.

"Perceptions of Prison and Punitive Attitudes: A Test of the Penal Escalation Hypothesis" Criminal Justice Review 41, no. 3 (2016): 352-371.

Finds that people who perceive life in prison to be easy or insufficiently-harsh were also more likely to express 1) support for other harsh punishments and 2) opposition to prisoner reentry and crime prevention programs; Findings suggest that political rhetoric decrying “country club prisons” may harshen people’s attitudes toward criminal justice globally.