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Jefferies, Natalie; Cachia, Moira
Languages: English
Types: Unknown
Subjects: Criminal-justice, psychology
Research into public attitudes towards punitiveness and sentencing is increasingly important as public attitudes have been found, to an extent, to influence government policy. Clear & Cole (2001, cited in Payne, Gainey, Triplett, and Danner 2004) show how public opinion contributed to a shift in penal paradigms in 1960’s America. Roberts and Hough (2002) discuss how public opinion appears to be influencing politics in America as politicians pander to the public in order to win their confidence and votes. \ud Related research both in the UK and abroad has spent time looking into demographic factors which affect punitiveness, including age, level of education and sex (Roberts and Hough, 2002; Roberts and Indermaur, 2007; Hough et al. 2009). This study contributes to the literature relating to these demographic factors as predictors of punitiveness. After reviewing previous research the hypotheses drawn were as follows; those with lower levels of education would have more punitive attitudes than those with higher levels of education, older people would have more punitive attitudes than their younger counterparts and males will have higher levels of punitiveness than females.\ud This UK-based study obtained participants for the questionnaire using an opportunistic sample (62 females; 45 males). Multiple hierarchial regressions and a MANOVA were used to analyse the data. It was concluded that the level of education and age were both found to be significant predictors of punitive attitudes. However, the significant findings related to age were in the opposite direction than was hypothesised. Thus while the hypothesis relating to level of education could be accepted; those which related to sex and age had to be rejected. The data from the vignettes were also compared to the sentencing guidelines (Sentencing Guidelines Council, 2008) and participants responses were generally found to be similar to those used by English courts. Although the result regarding age in this study is in the opposite direction to the majority of previous research (Hough and Moxon, 1985), the findings for level of education as a factor are consistent with previous research (Payne et al. 2004). Moreover, studies have generally concluded that males are the more punitive sex but this is not a largely consistent finding and this factor is thought to be much more complex than its given credit for.
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