Type of Document Dissertation Author Welch, Kelly A. URN etd-05252004-005153 Title Punitive Attitudes and the Racial Typification of Crime Degree Doctor of Philosophy Department Criminology and Criminal Justice, School of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Ted Chiricos Committee Chair Gary Kleck Committee Member Irene Padavic Committee Member Keywords
- Racial Threat
- Social Threat
- Punitive Attitudes
- Criminal Stereotype
Date of Defense 2004-05-14 Availability unrestricted AbstractThe American criminal justice system is more punitive than any other industrialized country in the world. Various policies designed to “get tough” on criminals have been proliferating. While these punitive policies and practices have been used, the American public has also seemed to be more supportive of these harsh measures for dealing with suspected and convicted criminals. The public has often perceived that crime is a problem largely attributable to blacks. The idea for this research originated from the fact that many have conjectured a relationship between public punitiveness and the racial typification of crime. No one had yet produced empirical support for this claim.
Using national survey data I collected in the spring of 2002, I explore the possibility that perceptions of crime as a predominantly black phenomenon are related to more punitive attitudes about criminal justice, while controlling for other potential influences on punitiveness. Further, I assess whether viewing television crime news and crime dramas increase the likelihood of stereotyping blacks as criminals. Finally, I test for the presence of an indirect relationship between media consumption and punitive attitudes through the racial typification of crime.
Findings support the initial hypothesis of this research. Those who typify blacks as criminals are significantly more punitive in their criminal justice policy preferences than those who do not share similar racial perceptions. The relationship appears to be especially relevant for whites, and particularly for whites who are non-Southerners, less racially prejudiced, less concerned about crime, perceive crime to be less violent, and conservative. Results indicate that watching more local television news increases the black typification of crime for minorities, while whites typify crime as a black phenomenon more when they pay closer attention to television crime news. In addition, the present analyses show that media consumption is not indirectly associated with punitive attitudes through the racial typification of crime.
Overall, this research shows how the relationship between the racial typification of crime and punitiveness both augments and possibly expands aspects of the social threat and social control relationship postulated by Blalock (1967), Liska (1992), and others.
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