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Issues of innocence have become more salient to the public in recent years, including the problem of police misconduct. However, citizens also tend to be supportive of the police, perceiving them as ethical, honest, and trustworthy. Using a survey experiment with a nationally representative sample, we explore the degree to which public opinion toward police misconduct is influenced by priming respondents on the issue of innocence. We find that reminding citizens of these issues increases their willingness to admit police misconduct that contributes to this problem by roughly 7 percentage points overall. Moreover, this effect is driven by conservatives and, to a lesser extent, moderates, presumably because liberals do not need priming. In contrast, the efficacy of the prime was not affected (i.e., moderated) by the race of the respondent. We place these results in the context of the current debate regarding police use of force as well as the ideological divide in rhetoric surrounding the recent string of high-profile police shootings.




Donovan, K. M. & Klahm IV, C. F. (2017). How Priming Innocence Influences Public Opinion on Police Misconduct and False Convictions: A Research Note. Criminal Justice Review (Volume 43 Issue 2) pp. 174 - 185. Copyright © 2017 SAGE Publications. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications.

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