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The Role of the Mass Media in Public Trust in the Police

JUST AUTHORITY? PUBLIC TRUST AND POLICE LEGITIMACY, J. Jackson, B. Bradford, E. Stanko and K. Hohl, Routledge, Forthcoming

33 Pages Posted: 17 Sep 2011  

Katrin Hohl

City University London; London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE)

Date Written: September 16, 2011

Abstract

This study tests the effect of the media, in particular the press, on public opinions of and trust in the police. It does so within the theoretical framework of procedural justice theory adapted to the British context. Procedural justice theory postulates that cooperation and compliance with the police, the courts and the law flow from the perception that they are legitimate and trustworthy authorities. Legitimacy and trust, in turn, are largely based on perceptions of procedural fairness – believing that the police or the courts treat one with fairness and respect, and that one’s views are heard and taken into account (Tyler and Huo 2002).

The empirically study combines a large-scale content analysis of reporting on policing in five major British newspapers between April 2007 and March 2010 with population representative survey data on public trust fielded continuously over the same three-year period. The study finds little evidence for an effect of the staple of media reporting on policing – ongoing crime investigations – on public trust in the police. Despite the great variability in media reporting over the three-year period – with some high profile events and stretches of both high and low intensity of reporting on policing – public confidence in the police remained very stable. Reporting on police misconduct, how the police treat members of the public in direct encounters and acts of police community engagement have a small effect on public confidence. These findings suggests public trust is rooted in perceptions and beliefs about procedural fairness and police community engagement more than in judgements of police effectiveness and competence in dealing with crime.

Keywords: trust, confidence, police, media

Suggested Citation

Hohl, Katrin, The Role of the Mass Media in Public Trust in the Police (September 16, 2011). JUST AUTHORITY? PUBLIC TRUST AND POLICE LEGITIMACY, J. Jackson, B. Bradford, E. Stanko and K. Hohl, Routledge, Forthcoming . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1928522

Katrin Hohl (Contact Author)

City University London ( email )

Northampton Square
London, EC1V OHB
United Kingdom

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://lse.academia.edu/KatrinHohl/About

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