The racial components of "race-neutral" crime policy attitudes

Mark Peffley, Jon Hurwitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


Past studies have found evidence of a connection between race and crime in the minds of many white Americans, but several gaps remain in our knowledge of this association. Here, a multimethod approach was used to examine more closely the racial component of whites' support for ostensibly race-neutral crime policies. Conventional correlational analysis showed that negative stereotypes of African Americans - specifically, the belief that blacks are violent and lazy - are an important source of support for punitive policies such as the death penalty and longer prison terms. A survey experiment further showed that negative evaluations of black prisoners are much more strongly tied to support for punitive policies than are negative evaluations of white prisoners. These findings suggest that when many whites think of punitive crime policies to deal with violent offenders, they are thinking of black offenders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-75
Number of pages17
JournalPolitical Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2002


  • Crime
  • Public opinion
  • Race
  • Stereotypes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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