Public Opinion, Crime, and Criminal Justice

Public Opinion, Crime, and Criminal Justice

Public Opinion, Crime, and Criminal Justice

Public Opinion, Crime, and Criminal Justice

Synopsis

Utilizing extensive data from the US, and comparisons with Canada and the UK, the authors reveal the truth behind how the public perceives crime and how this perception compares to actual criminal activity. They discuss issues such as public knowledge of crime, sources of crime information, information processing by the public, public attitudes about crime, the effectiveness of punishment, and the role that public opinion plays in the politics of criminal justice issues. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.

Excerpt

To the public, crime seems to be everywhere, from the boardrooms to the bedrooms of the nation, in peoples' homes and on their television screens. Americans worry about criminal victimization, are concerned about the proliferation of illegal drugs, and the transformation of many urban centres into "no-go" areas. But it is not just crime that engages the public's attention: The criminal justice response is equally interesting. Most Americans have seen footage of the assault on Rodney King in what became the most well-known amateur video since Zapruder's footage of the Kennedy assassination. The ensuing trials of the officers involved in the Rodney King case also fascinated the public. Rodney King, William Kennedy Smith, the Menendez brothers--all these cases attracted prime time media coverage. Riveting though they were for the public, none have attracted the degree of media coverage or public interest than the Simpson murder trial which in 1995 attracted more media attention than any other news story in America. Well over one hundred million Americans watched television in anticipation of the verdict in that case. Millions more followed the case in other countries.

Public Concern About Crime

An indication of the degree of public concern about the crime issue can be found by examining poll data. In 1994, crime was identified as the number one problem confronting America (Maguire and Pastore, 1994). Fully 37 percent of the public endorsed this view, a much higher percentage than any other social problem, including unemployment or the economy.

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