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Political Behavior

, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 419–439 | Cite as

Racial Discrimination, Fear of Crime, and Variability in Blacks’ Preferences for Punitive and Preventative Anti-crime Policies

  • Mark D. Ramirez
Original Paper

Abstract

A growing body of research recognizes that people’s policy opinions are not simply positive or negative, but instead derive from a variety of positive and negative beliefs related to a political issue. This research expands this insight by explaining the variability in support for punitive anti-crime policies among black Americans. Data from a nationally representative survey of black Americans (n = 515) are used to show that a majority of blacks are conflicted between a strong desire to reduce crime and perceptions of widespread racial discrimination within the criminal justice system. Using a heteroskedastic item response theory model, I demonstrate that conflict between these beliefs results in far greater variability around their support for punitive, but not preventative policies. Both the conflict and variability of many black Americans’ preferences on punitive anti-crime policies complicates their ability to clearly voice their support for or opposition toward punitive policies and likely limits the ability of elected officials to represent members of this community.

Keywords

Public opinion Punitive Crime Criminal justice 

Notes

Acknowledgment

Thanks to Kim Fridkin and the manuscript reviewers for many helpful comments on earlier drafts of this research. I would also like to thank Josh Thompson, Amanda Wintersieck, Babek Rezaee, and the School of Politics and Global Studies at Arizona State University for providing research assistance on the project.

Supplementary material

11109_2014_9285_MOESM1_ESM.docx (199 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 198 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Politics and Global StudiesArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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