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

NCJ Number
Valerie J. Callanan
Date Published
234 pages
This book examines factors that influenced public support for California's "Three Strikes" law, which mandates 15 years to life in prison for any offender convicted of "any" third felony following two prior convictions for serious crimes.
Factors found to be related to punitiveness and support for the "Three Strikes" law were race/ethnicity, crime seriousness, support for rehabilitation, prior criminal victimization, prior arrest, just-world beliefs, political beliefs, and fear of crime and belief in crime increases. Media effects were not found to influence punitiveness directly, but rather indirectly in their influence on other attitudes and beliefs related to punitiveness. The first chapter reviews trends in public opinion about crime and crime policy and discusses the politics of crime control as well as problems with prior research on public opinion about crime and crime policy. A chapter then reviews the research on public opinion about criminal sentencing, highlighting the research on the relationship between beliefs about crime and experiences with crime, including fear of crime, on punitive attitudes. This is followed by a chapter that addresses the extent and nature of media influence on public opinion about crime. Media effects are hypothesized to directly influence support for the California "Three Strikes" law, and indirectly as they influence respondents' perceptions of the amount of crime, crime seriousness, Just-world beliefs, support for rehabilitation, and fear of crime, which are treated as intervening factors in support for the law. Sociodemographic variables suggested by the literature are age, gender, political party, income, and education. These factors are encompassed in the presentation of a theoretical model of support for the law. The chapters that report on the testing of the model address the measurement of punitiveness and related factors and the coefficients for the structural equations derived from the model. Appended survey questions and a presentation of the full model for punitiveness and support for the law, 380 references, and a subject index