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News Media Use and Public Perceptions of Crime Seriousness

NCJ Number
Canadian Journal of Criminology Volume: 30 Issue: 1 Dated: (January 1988) Pages: 3-16
R J Gebotys; J V Roberts; B DasGupta
Date Published
14 pages
Two public opinion surveys examined the relationship between media use and perceptions of crime seriousness.
Respondents indicated how frequently they attended to the news media and rated the seriousness of nine common offenses. There were also questions dealing with demographic variables and experiences with victimization. A significant positive relationship emerged between media use and perceptions of crime seriousness. High scores on television news viewing were associated with high seriousness ratings. This result is consistent with recent work suggesting that media presentations of crime have an anchoring effect: by emphasizing high serious crimes such as homicide, the news media appear to affect perceptions of the seriousness of other, less serious and unrelated offenses. In contrast to earlier research, judgments of crime seriousness were significantly affected by sex of the respondent and whether he or she had been recently victimized. Females and individuals who had not been victimized within the last year rated the crimes as being more serious than did males and recent victims. These findings are discussed in light of other research demonstrating the influence of the news media upon public perceptions of and attitudes toward crime and punishment. (Author abstract)