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Economic Insecurity, Blame, and Punitive Attitudes

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 22 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2005 Pages: 392-412
Michael J. Hogan; Ted Chiricos; Marc Gertz
Date Published
September 2005
21 pages
Stimulated by changes in the popular and political culture of the United States, this study explored the relationships that may exist between economic insecurity, blame, and punitive attitudes toward offenders.
Since the early 1970s, a punitive turn in American criminal justice policy has been well documented. This is reflected in exploding rates of incarceration, as well as in the renewal and accelerated use of execution, the proliferation of mandatory sentencing laws, the increased use of juvenile “waivers” to adult court, the war against crack cocaine, and other attempts to control and punish criminals more severely. This study was stimulated by these changes and examined the relationship between punitive attitudes toward criminals, two measures of economic insecurity, and a measure of blame for stagnating incomes that targets welfare, affirmative action, and immigration. Survey data were used to examine the possibility that support for harsh punitive measures toward criminals may be elevated among those who express economic insecurities and blame immigrants, affirmative action, and welfare for declining economic fortunes. Data were obtained from a telephone survey of 1,476 adult residents of Leon County, FL, and conducted in the fall of 1995. Study results indicate that when controlling other relevant factors, blaming affirmative action, welfare, and immigration for stagnating incomes over the previous 20 years most strongly predicted punitiveness in the sample as a whole. In addition, the analysis revealed that blame was a relatively stronger predictor of punitive attitudes for White males than for other respondents in the sample. References and appendix