Gubernatorial elections and attitudes toward the police: State elections as focusing events

Lee Demetrius Walker, Richard W. Waterman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Traditional views hold that citizens' attitudes toward the police are driven by local concerns. We contend that public attitudes toward the police are also responsive to systematic and periodic state-level political factors. We show that state elections as a focusing event alter periodically the determinants of attitudes toward the police. Using an ordered logistic regression model and data from national public policy surveys from 1998 and 1999, we find that gubernatorial elections have a significant effect on the state/police relationship. State elections create conditions that separate the bureaucratic and partisan functions of the state government. In turn, the bureaucratic performance of the state government is less related to police approval, while partisan contestation for control of the governor office (control of the state) is significantly and positively related to police approval. During gubernatorial election years, attitudes toward the state government account for more of the variation in police attitudes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-127
Number of pages11
JournalElectoral Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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