Punitive Attitudes: The Relative Contributions of Crime Salience and Economic Insecurity

Ted Chiricos, Florida State University
Michael T. Costelloe, Florida State University
Marc Gertz, Florida State University

ABSTRACT
In The Culture of Control: Crime and Social Order in Contemporary Society, David Garland suggests that recent increases in support for punitive policies among the middle-class have been due both to an increase in the salience of crime and individual insecurities created by the social and economic transformations characteristic of "late modernity." Personal experience and political rhetoric have encouraged the middle-class to perceive that they are being victimized by the lower-classes both criminally and in terms of government policies intended to assist the "undeserving poor." As a result, it is suggested that the middle-classes have become more supportive of punitive policies directed toward the "undeserving poor," including criminals. Using OLS regression, the present study examines the relative contribution of both crime salient factors (i.e., victimization experiences, fear of crime, and general concerns about crime) and individual economic insecurity in the formation of punitive attitudes toward criminals, welfare recipients, and immigrants among 2,250 Florida residents. In addition, we also test for the presence of an interaction effect between crime salience measures and economic insecurity on individual punitiveness.

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Updated 05/20/2006