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Peter K. Enns

Associate Professor of Government, Executive Director of the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, Cornell University

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About Peter

Enns' research focuses on public opinion, representation, mass incarceration, and inequality. He is the Executive Director of the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at Cornell University and he is the team leader of the Cornell Institute for Social Science theme project on the causes, consequences, and future of mass incarceration in the United States. He is also a former Faculty Director of Cornell's Prison Education Program and he has taught in Auburn Correctional Facility.

In the News

"Public Affairs with Bob Salter," Peter K. Enns, Interview with Bob Salter, WFAN, June 24, 2018.
Guest to discuss the rise of mass incarceration in the United States on David Pakman Show, Peter K. Enns, April 28, 2017.
Interview on rise of mass incarceration Peter K. Enns, Wide Angle with Peter Bermudes, August 1, 2016.
Peter K. Enns quoted by Max Lewontin, "Why New Jersey Incarcerates More People than Rwanda" Christian Science Monitor, June 16, 2016.
Peter K. Enns's research on whether or not the United States is an oligarchy featured discussed by Dylan Matthews, "Remember That Study Saying America is an Oligarchy? 3 Rebuttals say it's Wrong.," Vox, May 9, 2016.
"Incarceration Nation," Peter K. Enns, Richard French Live, April 1, 2016.
"It’s Public Opinion behind Our Crowded Prisons," Peter K. Enns, The Ithaca Voice, March 16, 2016.
"Why Prisons Stay Full When the Crime Rate Goes down ," Peter K. Enns, The Washington Post, March 6, 2016.
"The Relationship between Public Opinion and Mass Incarceration," Peter K. Enns, London School of Economics, May 21, 2014.
Peter K. Enns quoted by Thomas B. Edsall, "Does Rising Inequality Make Us Hardhearted?" New York Times, December 10, 2013.


Incarceration Nation: How the United States Became the Most Punitive Democracy in the World (Cambridge University Press, 2016).

Demonstrates that, in contrast to conventional wisdom, the public’s increasing punitiveness was a key factor in the rise of mass incarceration and that public opinion will be critical for undoing the carceral state. Furthermore, shows that media coverage of the crime rate explains much of the changes in the public’s punitiveness.

"Relative Policy Support and Coincidental Representation" Perspectives on Politics 13, no. 4 (2016): 1072-1074.

Presents a new way to understand whether politicians represent some groups more than others. 

"Conditional Status Quo Bias and Top Income Shares: How U.S. Political Institutions Have Benefited the Rich" (with Nate Kelly, Jana Morgan, , Chris Witko, Thomas Volscho, and Thomas Volscho). Journal of Politics 76, no. 2 (2014): 1-15.

Demonstrates that the institutional features of the U.S. Senate further advantage the wealthy as inequality increases.

"The Public's Increasing Punitiveness and Its Influence on Mass Incarceration in the United States" American Journal of Political Science 58, no. 4 (2014): 857-872.

Offers the first evidence that changing public attitudes are critical to understanding changes in the U.S. incarceration rate.

"Presidential Campaigns and the Fundamentals Reconsidered" (with Brian Richman). Journal of Politics 75, no. 3 (2013): 803-820.

Shows that the major fluctuations in horse-race polls throughout presidential campaigns mostly reflects changes in how respondents consider the survey question, not changes in the criteria they use to make their vote choice.

Who Gets Represented? (with Christopher Wlezien) (Russell Sage Foundation, 2011).

Includes 12 chapters written by the top scholars in the discipline to answer the question, who gets represented?