Student Scholar Symposium Abstracts and Posters

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 5-14-2015

Faculty Advisor(s)

David Shafie


This paper focuses on public opinion of crime salience and punitive attitudes, looking specifically at how crime-news consumption affects such attitudes. Sensationalized local TV news has become heavily focused on crime and accidents in recent decades, and many researchers claim that heavy consumption of local crime news lead one to overestimate crime rates. Not only do people perceive that there is more crime, but they often feel a personal threat to their safety, and consequently advocate more severe criminal justice policies. Even if it does lead people to erroneous beliefs, the quasi-sanctity of freedom of the press in the U.S. will make reform extremely unlikely, and the market will continue to produce crime-media because it is so appealing. The death penalty and support for mandatory sentencing are two measures of criminal punitiveness that this paper will use as it attempts to evaluate the role that local crime media consumption plays in forming such beliefs. Data from the Chapman Social Reality Survey (2014) will be used to look at the relationship between perceived crime, local media consumption, and punitive attitudes. An important implication of this question is whether crime news’ overrepresentation of black suspects may mean that white viewers are more likely to find blacks as supposed criminals. Another important implication is whether that may be responsible for the disproportionate sentencing blacks face in the American judicial system today or if it is simply a byproduct of a socialized prejudice reinforced, not created, by crime media.


Presented at the Spring 2015 Student Research Day at Chapman University.