The Racial Typification of Crime

Kelly Welch, Florida State University
Ted Chiricos, Florida State University
Marc Gertz, Florida State University

A well-documented surge of punitiveness in the American criminal justice system has been accompanied by high leels of public support for punitive policies. It has been suggested that one reason for this demand for harsh criminal justice measures is the common association that is made between black males and criminality which some have suggested is strongly reinforced by media coverage of crime. Some prior research indicates that the greater willingness to punish criminals is linked, in part, to the perception that crime is disproportionately committed by black males. The current research explores the factors that may contribute to this typification of crime as a black male phenomenon with a particular focus on television consumption. Using nationwide survey data (N=885) collected in spring 2002, we assess the extent to which specific crimes are perceived to be committed by blacks. We then use OLS regression to assess whether variable television consumption by respondents predicts the racial typification of crime, independent of controls for other respondent characteristics.

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Updated 05/20/2006