1932

Abstract

This article reviews evidence for the effects of public opinion on court decision-making, capital punishment policy and use, correctional expenditures, and incarceration rates. It also assesses evidence about the factors explaining changes over time in public support for punitive crime policies. Most of this evidence originates from outside of our discipline. I identify two reasons that criminologists have not made more progress toward understanding the opinion-policy relationship. One is an unfamiliarity with important theoretical and empirical developments in political science pertaining to public policy mood, parallel opinion change, majoritarian congruence, and dynamic representation. Another is our overreliance on cross-sectional studies and preoccupation with comparing support levels elicited with different questions (global versus specific) and under different conditions (uninformed versus informed). I show how the resultant findings have contributed to misunderstandings about the nature of public opinion and created a false summit in our analysis of the opinion-policy relationship.

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2019-01-13
2024-04-15
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