Media Exposure and Racialized Perceptions of Inequities in Criminal Justice
Social Sciences, Vol. 6 (#3):1-22
22 Pages Posted: 29 Jun 2017
Date Written: June 28, 2017
Does media exposure to salient criminological events exacerbate racialized perceptions of injustice? We examine whether closely following media coverage of the fatal encounter of George Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon Martin moderates racial and ethnic differences in opinion surrounding the event and the U.S. criminal justice system. Our analysis addresses several key aspects of the case: Whether Zimmerman would have been arrested sooner if Martin had been white, whether respondents felt Zimmerman’s acquittal was justified, and whether there is racial bias against African Americans in the criminal justice system. Relying on a national opinion survey before and after Zimmerman’s trial verdict, our findings support the racial gradient thesis by demonstrating that sustained exposure to racialized framing of the incident in the media affects Hispanics the most and hardens entrenched attitudes among African Americans relative to whites. The analysis supports the continuing relevance of the mass media in attitude formation.
Keywords: media exposure; public perceptions; Trayvon Martin; inequality; race; criminal justice
JEL Classification: K; K14; K41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation