Deconstructing Public Confidence: The Public Confidence Agenda as a Governmental Project

  • Elizabeth R. Turner
Part of the Critical Criminological Perspectives book series (CCRP)


In order to produce knowledge about confidence, researchers use ‘procedures of intervention’ that come between the things to be known and representations of those things: this constitutes a ‘violation’. All knowledge, whether derived from a survey or a deliberative process, involves researchers choosing procedures that violate what they study. The decisions they make, then, are about how to violate reality in order to arrive at knowledge. The dominant approach to public confidence research constructs a hierarchy of objects: reality, representations, perceptions, feelings. The solution to the confidence problem is understood as that of correcting perceptions through better representations of reality. This dominant conceptualisation of public confidence privileges expert ways of knowing. Deliberative approaches, promoting dialogue, are unfairly dismissed as unable to access the ‘reality’ of public opinion. But this view fails to acknowledge that all ways of knowing about public opinion must produce the phenomenon they go on to represent.


Foucault Governmentality Public confidence in criminal justice Media distortion of crime Public understanding of criminal justice Public knowledge Deliberative methods 


  1. Ackerman, Bruce, and James S. Fishkin. 2004. Deliberation Day. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Allen, R. 2002. “There Must Be Some Way of Dealing with Kids”: Young Offenders, Public Attitudes and Policy Change. Youth Justice 2: 3–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bellah, R.N., R. Madsen, W. Sullivan, A. Swidler, and S.M. Tipton. 2008. Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life. Berkley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  4. Beniger, James R. 1992. The Impact of Polling on Public Opinion: Reconciling Foucault, Habermas, and Bourdieu. International Journal of Public Opinion Research 4 (3): 204–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bourdieu, Pierre. 1984. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Casey, L. 2008. Engaging Communities in Fighting Crime. London: Cabinet Office.Google Scholar
  7. Doob, Anthony N., and Julian V. Roberts. 1984. Social Psychology, Social Attitudes, and Attitudes Towards Sentencing. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science 16 (4): 269–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. ———. 1988. Public Punitiveness and Public Knowledge of the Facts: Some Canadian Surveys. In Public Attitudes to Sentencing: Surveys from Five Countries, ed. N. Walker and M. Hough, 111–133. Aldershot: Gower.Google Scholar
  9. Drury, J. 2002. “When the Mobs are Looking for Witches to Burn, Nobody’s Safe”: Talking about the Reactionary Crowd. Discourse and Society 13 (1): 41–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dryzek, John S. 2000. Deliberative Democracy and Beyond: Liberals, Critics, Contestations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Duffy, B., R. Wake, T. Burrows, and P. Bremner. 2007. Closing the Gaps: Crime and Public Perceptions. London: Ipsos MORI.Google Scholar
  12. Dzur, Albert W. 2012. Punishment, Participatory Democracy and the Jury. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dzur, A.W., and R. Mirchandani. 2007. Punishment and Democracy: The Role of Public Deliberation. Punishment and Society 9 (2): 151–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fishkin, James S. 1995. The Voice of the People: Public Opinion and Democracy. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Fishkin, J. 1996. Bringing Deliberation to Democracy. The Public Perspective 7 (1): 1–4.Google Scholar
  16. Fishkin, J. 2009. When the People Speak: Deliberative Democracy and Public Consultation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Foucault, Michel. 1991. Governmentality. In The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality, ed. G. Burchell, C. Gordon, and P. Miller, 87–104. Chicago: Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
  18. ———. 1994. Truth and Juridical Forms. In Power, ed. James D. Faubion, 1–9. New York: The New York Press.Google Scholar
  19. Green, David A. 2006. Public Opinion Versus Public Judgment about Crime: Correcting the ‘Comedy of Errors’. British Journal of Criminology 46: 131–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. ———. 2008. When Children Kill Children: Penal Populism and Political Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hindelang, M.J. 1974. Public Opinion Regarding Crime, Criminal Justice and Related Topics. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 11 (2): 101–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hough, M., and P. Mayhew. 1983. The British Crime Survey: First Report. London: Her Majesty’s Stationary Office.Google Scholar
  23. Hough, Mike, and Patricia Mayhew. 1985. Taking Account of Crime: Key Findings From the Second British Crime Survey. London: Home Office.Google Scholar
  24. Hough, M., H. Lewis, and N. Walker. 1988. Factors Associated with “Punitiveness” in England and Wales. In Public Attitudes to Sentencing: Surveys from Five Countries, ed. N. Walker and M. Hough, 203–217. Aldershot: Gower.Google Scholar
  25. Hough, Mike, and Alison Park. 2002. How Malleable are Attitudes to Crime and Punishment? Findings from a British Deliberative Poll. In Changing Attitudes to Punishment: Public Opinion, Crime and Justice, ed. J.V. Roberts and M. Hough, 163–183. Cullompton: Willan.Google Scholar
  26. Hough, Mike, and Julian V. Roberts. 1998. Attitudes to Punishment: Findings from the British Crime Survey. London: Home Office.Google Scholar
  27. Hughes, J.A., and W.W. Sharrock. 2007. Theory and Methods in Sociology: An Introduction to Sociological Thinking and Practice. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Jackson, J., and J. Sunshine. 2007. Public Confidence in Policing: A Neo-Durkheimian Perspective. British Journal of Criminology 47 (2): 214–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kendall, G., and G. Whickham. 1999. Using Foucault’s Methods. London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Law, John. 2004. After Method: Mess in Social Science Research. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  31. Loader, Ian. 2011. Playing with Fire? Democracy and the Emotions of Crime and Punishment. In Emotions, Crime and Justice, ed. Susanne Karstedt, Ian Loader, and Heather Strang, 347–362. Oxford: Hart.Google Scholar
  32. Loader, I., and R. Sparks. 2010. Wacquant and Civic Sociology: “Formative Intentions” and Formative Experiences. Criminology and Criminal Justice 10 (4): 405–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. ———. 2011. Criminology and Democratic Politics: A Reply to Critics. British Journal of Criminology 51 (4): 734–738.Google Scholar
  34. Luskin, Robert C., James S. Fishkin, and Roger Jowell. 2002. Considered Opinions: Deliberative Polling in Britain. British Journal of Political Science 32: 455–487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mills, C. Wright. 2000. The Sociological Imagination. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Osborne, T., and N. Rose. 1999. Do the Social Sciences Create Phenomena: The Case of Public Opinion Research. British Journal of Sociology 50 (3): 367–396.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Pratt, John. 2007. Penal Populism. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  38. Price, V., and P. Neijens. 1997. Opinion Quality in Public Opinion Research. International Journal of Public Opinion Research 9 (4): 336–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Roberts, Julian V., and Anthony N. Doob. 1989. Sentencing and Public Opinion: Taking False Shadows for True Substances. Osgoode Hall Law Journal 27 (3): 491–503.Google Scholar
  40. Roberts, Julian V., and Mike Hough, eds. 2002. Changing Attitudes to Punishment: Public Opinion, Crime and Justice. Cullompton: Willan.Google Scholar
  41. Roberts, Julian V., Loretta J. Stalans, David Indermaur, and Mike Hough. 2003. Penal Populism and Public Opinion: Lessons from Five Countries. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Saward, M. 2003. Enacting Democracy. Political Studies 51: 161–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Shamir, J., and M. Shamir. 2000. The Anatomy of Public Opinion. Michigan: University of Michigan Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Smith, Dominic. 2007. Confidence in the Criminal Justice System: What Lies Beneath? London: Ministry of Justice.Google Scholar
  45. Van Dijk, J.M. 1979. The Extent of Public Information and the Nature of Public Attitudes Towards Crime. Council of Europe Thirteenth Criminological Research Conference: Public Opinion on Crime and Criminal Justice.Google Scholar
  46. Walker, Nigel, and Mike Hough, eds. 1988. Public Attitudes to Sentencing: Surveys from Five Countries. Aldershot: Gower.Google Scholar
  47. Williams, M. 1998. The Social World as Knowable. In Knowing the Social World, ed. T. May and M. Williams, 5–21. Buckingham: Open University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth R. Turner
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK

Personalised recommendations