Feeding the Fear of Crime: Crime-Related Media and Support for Three Strikes

By Valerie J. Callanan | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
Understanding American
Punitive Attitudes

TRENDS IN PUBLIC OPINION OF CRIME AND
CRIME POLICY

Over the last 25 years, public opinion polls have recorded an enormous increase in concern about crime; among Americans, this concern skyrocketed to unprecedented levels in the mid 1990's. For example, only 3% of Americans cited crime and violence as the number one problem in the country in a Gallup poll in 1982. Over the next decade, concern for crime crept upward, reaching 9% in 1993, and jumping to 37% in 1994. Although this unprecedented level of concern was anomalous, and abated somewhat the following years, 20% or more of Americans still cited crime and violence as the number one problem in the country through 1998, in spite of the fact that crime rates dropped dramatically during the mid to late 1990's. Public opinion about drugs and drug abuse has followed a similar trend as public concern about crime. For example, only 2% of Americans listed drugs and drug abuse as the number one problem in a 1982 Gallup poll, but that number shot up to 27% in 1989, declined somewhat in the early 1990's, increased again in the late 1990's, and now stands at 7% in the early 2000's.

As concern about crime and drugs increased over the last 25 years so did a corresponding increase in the fear of crime. Most polls and surveys recorded a dramatic increase in fear of crime, which continued to rise or at best, remained high, even as crime rates began to fall in the early 1990's. During the same time period, these same polls and surveys also reported a growing dissatisfaction with the American criminal justice system, and a rise in the belief that criminals were

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Feeding the Fear of Crime: Crime-Related Media and Support for Three Strikes
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Table of Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - Understanding American Punitive Attitudes 3
  • Chapter 2 - Public Opinion of Criminal Sentencing 17
  • Chapter 3 - Media and Public Opinion of Crime 53
  • Chapter 4 - Modeling Support for Three Strikes 91
  • Chapter 5 - Measuring Punitiveness and Related Factors 99
  • Chapter 6 - Explaining Punitiveness 121
  • Chapter 7 - Summing Up 151
  • Appendix A 181
  • Appendix B 189
  • References 201
  • Index 223
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