An Empirical Assessment of the Effect of Crime Salience on Attitudes Toward Crime, Welfare and Immigration

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

As previous research has noted, the expected relationship between crime salience and punitive attitudes toward crime is rather straightforward. It is reasonable to expect that those who are most fearful of crime, more concerned about crime, and who have been criminally victimized in the past will express more punitive sentiments toward crime and criminals. The relationship between crime salience and punitiveness toward welfare and immigration may not be so apparent. It is reasonable to assume that there are many who associate the issues of crime, welfare, and immigration with similar populations, namely inner city minorities. Crime has long been associated with those perceived as alien and dangerous "others." Immigrants and the "undeserving poor," for example, are often viewed as suffering from individual moral failings and as being disproportionately involved in criminal behavior. Using OLSand logistic regression, our study analyzes the relationship between crime salience and attitudes toward crime, welfare, and immigration for 2,250 Florida residents. The results of this study demonstrate that the influence of crime salience extends beyond attitudes toward crime.

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Updated 05/20/2006