Public Opinion and Policy: Attitudes About Legal and Social Responses to Domestic Violence

Bonnie E. Carlson, University at Albany
Alissa Pollitz Worden, University at Albany

ABSTRACT
Despite a proliferation of reforms and innovations in criminal justice and social policy directed at reducing domestic violence, we know relatively little about how the public understands the problem of violence and how well public opinion and preferences line up with recent reforms. Partner violence is a common ()albeit underreported) type of crime, and most citizens are familiar with at least one party involved in a violent relationship. However, research suggests that the public's understandings of the causes of violence do not square with the conclusions of researchers, and it is likely that their support for social and legal changes are inconsistent as well. It is important to map social understandings of violence in order to accurately calibrate public education and intervention programs; and to communicate the intent as well as the legal substance of reforms. Based on a survey of 1200 respondents in six New York state communities, the analyses reported here will explore the dimensionality of public opinion about social and legal responses; assewss the consistency of public preferences and public understandings about what causes violence; and draw policy conclusions about the best ways to use information on public opinion to improve future reform efforts.

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Updated 05/20/2006