Title page for ETD etd-04012006-145623

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Abraham, Amanda J.
Author's Email Address aabrah2@lsu.edu
URN etd-04012006-145623
Title Lock'em Up and Throw Away the Key: Racial Attitudes and the Structural Determinants of Support for Crime Policy among White Americans
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Sociology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Nicholas Pedriana Committee Chair
James Garand Committee Member
Matthew Lee Committee Member
Susan Dumais Committee Member
Carter Hill Dean's Representative
  • crime spending
  • death penalty
  • public opinion
  • crime
  • racial attitudes
  • segregation
  • social structure
Date of Defense 2006-03-22
Availability unrestricted
This study investigates support for the death penalty and federal crime spending among white Americans. Data from the American National Election Studies (ANES) series (1992-2000) are matched with census tract level indicators of demographic and community characteristics from the 1990 and 2000 Census Bureau Summary File Tape 3A and county level crime data supplied by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR). Ordered logistic regression is used to investigate five general research questions: (1) Are racial attitudes the most salient individual level predictors of support for crime policy among whites as suggested by prior research? (2) Are whites’ crime policy preferences influenced by the structural environment? (3) Is the relationship between key individual level variables (i.e. racial attitudes) and support for crime policy moderated by features of the community? (4) Does fear of crime influence white support for crime policy? (5) Are there different explanatory models of white support for the death penalty and federal crime spending?

The results of the study show whites’ racial attitudes are strong predictors of white support for the death penalty and federal crime spending. Overall, structural conditions do not shape white support for the death penalty. On the other hand, whites’ crime spending preferences are influenced by the racial context of the community. Whites living in more racially segregated communities are less supportive of increased crime spending. Turning to the interaction results, the relationship between whites’ racial attitudes and support for the death penalty is mediated by features of the community (i.e. racial composition, segregation, deprivation). In general, interaction effects are not present in the crime spending models. The fear of crime models show fear is related to white support of crime spending but is not associated with support for the death penalty. In sum, these findings suggest further investigation of white support for crime policy is warranted.

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