Punitive sentiment

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Scholarship has long noted the importance of understanding the changes that occur over time in aggregate public support for punitive criminal justice policies. Yet, the lack of a reliable and valid measure of this concept limits our understanding of this aspect of the criminal justice system. This research develops a measure of public support for punitive policies from 1951 to 2006 using 242 administrations of 24 unique survey indicators. It argues that punitive sentiment is politically constructed via frames focusing on the permissiveness of the criminal justice system. Punitive sentiment is estimated with an error-correction model showing both the short- and long-term relationships between punitive sentiment and presidential framing of crime, public dissatisfaction with social welfare policies, and perceptions of racial integration. The results highlight the complex dynamics responsible for the change over time in punitive sentiment as well as the possibilities of obtaining public support for alternative solutions to crime.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-364
Number of pages36
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2013


  • Public opinion
  • Punishment
  • Time series

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law


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