U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Impact of Media on Knowledge and Perceptions of Megan's Law

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Policy Review Volume: 13 Issue: 4 Dated: December 2002 Pages: 356-379
Jon L. Proctor; Diane M. Badzinski; Michelle Johnson
Date Published
December 2002
24 pages
Using survey data, this 1999 study examined the role of media exposure and attention of the public to such exposure on people's knowledge and perception of Megan's Law, which requires the police to publicly inform citizens when high-risk sex offenders move into their neighborhoods.
Participants for this study were selected from a random sample of listed telephone numbers in Massachusetts. Of the 990 households contacted, 345 individuals (18 years old or older) completed the survey. Due to sampling variation among respondents, a higher percentage of female and older respondents completed the questionnaire than existed in the population. Using U.S. census data, researchers weighted the sample by gender and age to more accurately reflect the population characteristics of Massachusetts. The first section of the questionnaire asked respondents to describe their weekly news consumption and how much attention they paid to crime in the media. The second section assessed respondents' knowledge of Megan's Law. The third section asked respondents six questions about their level of support for Megan's Law and perceptions of the law's effectiveness. The final section of the questionnaire asked for personal information about the respondents, such as age, educational level, and gender. Overall, the findings show that general knowledge of Megan's Law was low. Media exposure and attention to media reports increased the level of specific knowledge of Massachusetts' community notification law, but this did not have an effect on knowledge of Megan's Law in general. Attention to crime in the newspaper was related to both support for Megan's Law and belief in its effectiveness. The low level of variability in support, however, suggests that community notification is an across-the-board popular policy, even among people with minimal media exposure and who give little attention to crime reports in the newspaper. 5 tables and 57 references


No download available