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NCJ Number: 68215 Find in a Library
Title: CRIME SERIOUSNESS RATINGS - THE IMPACT OF SURVEY QUESTIONNAIRE FORM AND ITEM CONTEXT
Journal: BRITISH JOURNAL OF CRIMINOLOGY  Volume:20  Issue:2  Dated:(APRIL 1980)  Pages:123-135
Author(s): J F SHELEY
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 13
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Annotation: THIS PAPER INVESTIGATES THE FORM AND CONTEXT OF SELF-REPORT CRIME-SERIOUSNESS QUESTIONNAIRES, PROBING THE POSSIBILITY OF INFLUENCE OF SURVEY FORM AND CONTEXT ON SUBJECTS' RESPONSES TO CRIME-SERIOUSNESS ITEMS.
Abstract: THIS STUDY OF SELF-REPORTED CRIME SERIOUSNESS RATINGS AS ARTIFACTS OF ATTITUDE SURVEY TECHNIQUES (I.E., THE RESPONSE-EFFECT PROBLEM) WAS MADE AS A CONTRIBUTION TO ATTITUDE MEASUREMENT, ONE OF THE MORE CRUCIAL ELEMENTS OF THE SOCIAL SCIENCES. SPECIFICALLY, THE EXPERIMENT SOUGHT TO DETERMINE WHETHER QUESTIONNAIRE FORM, GENERAL ITEM CONTEXT, AND IMMEDIATE ITEM CONTEXT INFLUENCE RESPONDENTS' SELF-REPORTED ATTITUDES TOWARDS THE SERIOUSNESS OF VARIOUS CRIMINAL OFFENSES. CRIME-SERIOUSNESS-RATING QUESTIONNAIRES WITH IDENTICAL INTRODUCTIONS AND INSTRUCTIONS, BUT DIFFERING IN FORM AND ITEM CONTEXT, WERE RANDOMLY DISTRIBUTED TO 584 STUDENTS ENROLLED IN SOCIOLOGY COURSES AT A SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY. THE INFLUENCE OF QUESTIONNAIRE FORM ON SERIOUSNESS RATINGS WAS STUDIED BY PRESENTING ALL 30 ITEMS TO RANDOMLY SELECTED RESPONDENTS IN A 'FULL ARRAY' FORM OR A FORM WITH ONE ITEM PER PAGE. THE INFLUENCE OF GENERAL ITEM CONTEXT WAS STUDIED BY VARYING THE LEVELS OF SERIOUSNESS OF THE ITEM TO BE RATED. FOR EXAMPLE, THE FIRST ITEM (LOITERING--A LEAST-SERIOUS ITEM) APPEARED IN 4 DIFFERENT CONTEXTS: WITH ALL 29 OTHER ITEMS, IN OTHER LEAST-SERIOUS AND MODERATELY SERIOUS ITEMS, AND WITH OTHER LEAST-SERIOUS ITEMS ONLY. THE INFLUENCE OF IMMEDIATE ITEM CONTEXT ON SERIOUSNESS RATING WAS EXAMINED BY PRESENTING ONE ITEM IN THREE DIFFERENT POSITIONS--EARLY, INTERMEDIATE, AND LATE--WITHIN OTHERWISE IDENTICAL QUESTIONNAIRES CONTAINING ALL 30 OFFENSE ITEMS. FROM THE RESULTS, VERY LITTLE EVIDENCE IS FOUND TO SUGGEST THAT QUESTIONNAIRE FORM AND GENERAL AND IMMEDIATE ITEM CONTEXT DISTORT CRIME SERIOUSNESS RATINGS MORE THAN MINIMALLY. THE VALIDITY OF CRIME SERIOUSNESS STUDIES WHICH DO NOT ALTER GENERAL CONTEXTS, RANDOMIZE ITEMS, AND EMPLOY A 'ONE ITEM PER PAGE' FORMAT IS UPHELD. GENERALIZING THESE RESULTS BEYOND THE ISSUE OF CRIME SERIOUSNESS ATTITUDES, HOWEVER, IS QUESTIONABLE. ATTITUDES ABOUT CRIME SERIOUSNESS DIFFER FROM ATTITUDES ON OTHER ISSUES BY NOT REPRESENTING LIKES AND DISLIKES, BUT REFLECTING RATHER A SET OF LEARNED RIGHTS AND WRONGS ON WHICH THERE IS LITTLE ROOM FOR DEBATE. TABULAR DATA, FOOTNOTES, AND REFERENCES ARE PROVIDED. (MRK)
Index Term(s): Life sentences; Public Attitudes/Opinion; Questionnaires; Research methods
To cite this abstract, use the following link:
http://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/abstract.aspx?ID=68215

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