Does Offender's Ethnicity on Crime Scenarios Affect Public Perceptions of Crime Seriousness? A Survey Experiment

Sergio Herzog, University of Haifa

The great majority of research on public perceptions of crime seriousness is based on scenarios of criminal offenses. Many studies present the offenses in a highly summarized manner, with few or even no details on the corresponding offenders. However, a large body of literature shows that people in general and functionaries in the criminal justice system in particular hold crime stereotypes, in which the ethnicity/race of offenders plays an extremely important role in shaping their views on crime issues. Accordingly, the study reported here surveyed a large sample of Israeli citizens to examine whether the ethnicity of offenders included in such scenarios -- Jewish or Arab as the independent variable -- systematically affected their views on the seriousness of various offenses, taken as dependent variables. For the overall sample, these views were found to differ unpredictably only for the less serious offenses. However, when the Jewish and Arab respondents were analyzed separately, significant differences were found, especially around inter-ethnic offenses. The implications of the findings are discussed.

(Return to Program Resources)

Updated 05/20/2006