Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



The Sociological Quarterly 52:1 (Winter 2011) 36–55 ; doi: 10.1111/j.1533-8525.2010.01191.x


Copyright © 2011 Midwest Sociological Society; published by Wiley-Blackwell. Used by permission.


Research demonstrates a complex relationship between television viewing and fear of crime. Social critics assert that media depictions perpetuate the dominant cultural ideology about crime and criminal justice. This article examines whether program type differentially affects fear of crime and perceptions of the crime rate. Next, it tests whether such programming differentially affects viewers’ attitudes about the criminal justice system, and if these relationships are mediated by fear. Results indicated that fear mediated the relationship between viewing nonfictional shows and lack of support for the justice system. Viewing crime dramas predicted support for the death penalty, but this relationship was not mediated by fear. News viewership was unrelated to either fear or attitudes. The results support the idea that program type matters when it comes to understanding people’s fear of crime and their attitudes about criminal justice.

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