Social Perceptions and Attitudes to Punishment

Joachim Obergfell-Fuchs, Max-Planck-Institute

Public attitudes to punishment are heavily influenced by demographic, social, psychological, and political factors. Not only the development of the crime rate within a region, or public attitudes toward punishment, but also the perception of social change, of personal safety, the belief in personal advancement, or the perception of one's place in society have a strong impact on punitivity. Based on different large-scale surveys in Germany, the influence of such variables on punitivity will be examined and discussed. A model, weighing the different influential variables will be presented. The data show that unlike a first hypothesis demographic factors play only a minor role on attitudes to punishment while perceptions of personal safety and the experience of social changes have a much stronger impact.

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Updated 05/20/2006