Punitive Trends in Germany: What Role Does the Media Play?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 6:48 PM
Room: Booth 58
Oral Presentation
Michael HANSLMAIER , Criminological Research Institute , Hanover, Germany
Dirk BAIER , Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony, Hanover, Germany
In criminology there has been an active discussion about rising punitiveness in the United States and other Western societies (e.g. Garland, Wacquant). The present contribution aims to examine the factors that drive individual punitiveness. Studies have shown that the mass media play a significant role in shaping public attitudes towards crime and punishment. Therefore our interest focuses on the role of the media. The paper assesses to what extent the media can explain trends in punitive attitudes over time.

This is done in a twofold way. Firstly, we look at patterns of media consumption and punitiveness at the micro level. The empirical analyses are based on three waves of a nationwide representative survey conducted in Germany in the years 2004, 2006 and 2010 by the Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony. Secondly, a content analysis of German newspapers assesses the way crime and criminals are represented in the media and to what extent this has changed over time (e.g. if newspapers evoke more empathy for victims). Therefore we analyzed articles on crime of three different types of newspapers (quality press, local press, yellow press) for the years preceeding the surveys (2003, 2005, 2009). This strategy allows examining how trends in punitivity can be explained by changes in individual media consumption patterns and by changes in the quality of media coverage.

The results confirm the impact of the media on punitivity. Other factors on the macro level, for instance trends in the crime rates, which also may drive punitive attitudes will be discussed.