ERC Starting Grant Proposal
Current drug regulations across the world are crumbling and are leading to social outcomes suggesting regulatory failure. On the one hand, the policies in place do not seem to solve the abuse of either currently legal or illegal drugs. On the other hand, the consequences of both the social outcomes of drug abuse and the harsh legal punishments are concentrated among the most vulnerable populations. While drug policies have been studied extensively by scholars of public health and public policy, what is missing is an evaluation of how well drug policies represent public opinion. This proposal presents a theoretical framework that describes public opinion about drug users and policies designed to curb abuse and showcase a feedback loop I call an “attribution cycle”. Prejudice in the public about substances and their users create incentives for policies that fail to solve the “drug problem” and reinforce stereotypes held by citizens. I plan to test the observable implications of this framework relying on public opinion surveys and experiments, complemented by surveys of legal and public health experts as well as drug users.