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Cultivating Punitiveness

Simmons, Alicia D.2017. "Cultivating Support for Punitive Criminal Justice Policies: News Sectors and the Moderating Effects of

Audience Characteristics." Social Forces 96(1): 299-328. 

This study investigates whether exposure to various news sectors (local television, network television, cable television, radio, daily print newspapers, and Internet) is associated with audience members’ criminal justice policy preferences, and how these relationships are moderated by audience members’ socio-demographic characteristics. I propose that the relationship between news exposure and punitiveness is mediated by audience members’ instrumental concerns (fear of crime and previous victimization) and expressive concerns (belief in the importance of traditional ties, feelings of racial resentment, and pessimism about the national economy). I further suggest that the relationship between news exposure and punitiveness is moderated by audience members’ socio-demographic characteristics (race/ethnicity, local crime rate, and political ideology). Finally, I contend that individual news sectors vary in their attention to crime and their rhetorical framing, and thus have differing relationships with punitiveness. Results of a nationally representative survey suggest that news exposure cultivates punitiveness among whites, but not among blacks or Hispanics. Among whites, local news viewership has a significant positive relationship with punitiveness, particularly among individuals living in low-crime areas. Cable television, radio, print newspaper, and Internet news exposure have significant relationships with punitiveness, the direction of which hinges on audience members’ partisanship. I discuss the results in the context of the social construction of reality, highlighting the interplay between experienced and vicarious sources of knowledge, and in terms of selective exposure, emphasizing that audience members’ news outlet choices have profound implications for their worldviews.

Simmons, Alicia D. and Lawrence D. Bobo.2015. "Can Non-Full-Probability Internet Surveys Yield Useful Data? A Comparison to

Full-Probability Face-to-Face Surveys in the Domain of Race Attitudes." Sociological Methodology 45(1): 357-387

The authors investigate the potential utility of Web-based surveys of non-full-probabilistically sampled respondents for social science research. Specifically, they compare demographic, attitude response, and multivariate model results produced by two distinct survey modalities: the traditional full-probability sample face-to-face survey and the non-full-probability Web survey. Using data from the 2009 Race Cues, Attitudes, and Punitiveness Survey (RCAPS), the 2008 General Social Survey (GSS), and the 2008 American National Election Study (ANES), the authors find that (1) the unweighted demographic differences between surveys tend to be slight; (2) in comparison with GSS and ANES respondents, RCAPS respondents are more interested in politics and ideologically polarized; (3) in comparison with ANES respondents, RCAPS respondents are more racially and socially conservative, often selecting the most extreme response option; (4) when the dependent variable is a more general and abstract measure of social attitudes, the multivariate models generated by the ANES and RCAPS show several differences that are trivial in magnitude, but when the dependent variable is a more specific and concrete measure, the models show remarkable similarity; and (5) RCAPS multivariate models consistently explain more variance than ANES models. Overall, these findings show both substantial similarities across the two survey modalities as well as a few clear, reasonably well-specified differences.

Mode and Sampling
The Real Record

Bobo, Lawrence D., Camille Z. Charles, Maria Krysan, and Alicia D. Simmons.2012. "The Real Record on Racial Attitudes."

Pp. 28-83 in Social Trends in American Life: Findings from the General Social Survey since 1972. edited by P. V. Marsden. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Simmons, Alicia D. 2012. "Crime News and Crime Views: The Relationship between Whites' News Exposure Patterns and

Opinions about Criminal Justice Issues." Pp. 224-238 in the Harms of Crime Media: Essays on the Perpetuation of Race, Gender, and Class Stereotypes edited by D. L. Bissler and J. L. Conners. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

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