skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 230035 Find in a Library
Title: Social Sources of Americans' Punitiveness: A Test of Three Competing Models
Journal: Criminology  Volume:48  Issue:1  Dated:February 2010  Pages:99-130
Author(s): James D. Unnever; Francis T. Cullen
Date Published: February 2010
Page Count: 32
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Controlling for other known predictors of crime-related opinions, this study tests the explanatory power of the following three competing theories to account for support for the death penalty and a punitive crime-control approach: the escalating crime-distrust model, the moral decline model, and the racial animus model.
Abstract: This analysis of a national sample of respondents surveyed in the 2000 National Election Study (NES) provided partial support for each model; however, racial animus apparently exerts the most consistent effect on public sentiments. This suggests that resentment toward racial groups perceived as being disproportionately involved in crime is linked to the sustained movement to "get tough" on crime. The racial-animus model proposes that punitiveness in the United States, if not cross-culturally, is fueled by negative feelings and views of the majority toward minority members of racial/ethnic group members. It suggests that race and racism are thus integral to any understanding of why Americans endorse punitive crime-control policies. The crime-distrust model, which was partially supported, argues that support for punitive crime policies is based in the perceptions that crime is increasing and that the government, especially the courts, have not adequately protected them from crime. The moral decline model theorizes that people resort to an increase in punitiveness toward law-breakers when they feel that society's core institutions are in decline and that a shared set of moral values underlying normative behavior is in decline. The 2000 NES used probability samples of the American voting-age population residing in housing in the coterminous 48 States. A total of 1,620 persons provided post-election and pre-election interviews. Two dependent variables measured the degree to which Americans endorse punitive attitudes toward addressing social problems, including the use of the death penalty. Independent variables pertained to the three explanatory models tested. 5 tables and 103 references
Main Term(s): Criminology
Index Term(s): Capital punishment; Public Attitudes/Opinion; Public Opinion of Crime; Public Opinion of the Courts; Punishment; Race-punishment relationship; Racial discrimination
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.