Public Opinion on Appropriate Sentences - which Public, which Opinion?
2013 (English)In: European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, ISSN 0928-1371, E-ISSN 1572-9869, Vol. 19, no 1, 31-45 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Since the collapse of the treatment ideology, public opinion has assumed an increasingly central role as a basis for legitimising current crime policy. It is therefore important to be able to capture and describe the public's views on penal sanctions. Assessments of public opinion regarding appropriate sanctioning levels are largely made on the basis of different types of survey. The problems associated with how such surveys should be implemented in order to produce valid results have been discussed at length. The issue of how the results should be presented in order to provide a representative picture of public opinion have more rarely been explicitly problematized however. This article examines the question of how large a proportion, and which segments, of the public are represented in different descriptions of public opinion that can be produced based on survey results. The issue is examined on the basis of a national Swedish postal survey, in which the respondents were asked to state which sanction should be awarded in relation to six crimes described in the form of vignettes. The survey shows that public opinion on appropriate sanctioning levels is very varied. Summarizing public opinion is thus not a straightforward task. Different descriptions that are similarly representative in relation to one another lead to different conclusions as to what public opinion views as appropriate sanctioning levels. Routine references to public opinion are thus quite arbitrary unless those who refer to a certain description of public opinion also justify why this particular description is relevant.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. Vol. 19, no 1, 31-45 p.
Appropriate sentences, Disparity, Public opinion, Representativeness, Survey results
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Research subject Criminology
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-88701DOI: 10.1007/s10610-012-9176-0ISI: 000314862400003OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-88701DiVA: diva2:612878