Environmental Threat and Social Control

Tara O'Connor Shelley, Florida State University
Ted Chiricos, Florida State University
Marc Gertz, Florida State University

The social threat approach to social control has traditionally emphasized the putative threat of minorities as a factor that can mobilize punitive responses. We argue that the relevance of threat for punitiveness can be more broadly understood and that social threats can have a variety of origins. In this paper we focus on threats to public and personal health and to quality of life that may be posed by various environmentally sensitive factors such as hazardous waste disposal, industrial pollution, chemical spills, etc. We use data collected from a national telephone survey (N=876) and OLS regression to assess whether the perception of environmental threat is related to respondent's willingness to impose various forms of social control on those who commit environmental infractions. In addition, we examine whether the relationship between threat and control is mediated by factors that reflect the salience of threat to respondents. Specifically, we consider the mediating effects of tolerance for environmental risk and assessments of environmental crime seriousness.

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Updated 05/20/2006