Manipulating Public Opinion About Trying Juveniles as Adults: An Experimental Study

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Steinberg, Laurence
Piquero, Alex R
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2010
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Abstract

Public attitudes about juvenile crime play a significant role in fashioning juvenile justice policy; variations in the wording of public opinion surveys can produce very different responses and can result in inaccurate and unreliable assessments of public sentiment. Surveys that ask about policy alternatives in vague terms are especially problematic. The authors conducted an experiment in which a large sample of respondents were presented with a crime scenario in which the offender's age and prior record, the type of crime, and the inclusiveness of the policy in question were varied. Respondents were asked about the extent to which they support trying juveniles in adult court. Responses varied significantly as a function of the offender's age, criminal record, and offense but not as a function of inclusiveness. For legislators using public opinion polls to guide their decisions, blanket statements describing the results of vaguely worded surveys items can be misleading and can lead to poorly informed policy making.

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Crime and Delinquency

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56

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4

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Criminology

Correctional theory, offender treatment and rehabilitation

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