The NCSC Sentencing Attitudes Survey: A Report on the Findings

National Center for State Courts, July 2006

The climate of public opinion toward crime and punishment in this country has changed considerably over the past decade. As the national crime rate has declined, crime is less likely to be in the forefront of people’s minds and – with the exception of certain high-profile crimes and cases involving celebrities – is less prominent in media coverage. What had been a frequent polling topic 10 years ago gets much less attention today. Moreover, recent surveys about crime often fail to specifically address public attitudes toward sentencing, or have examined the issue from one particular ideological point of view. The NCSC Sentencing Attitudes Survey, a national poll of 1,502 randomly selected adults, was designed to fill this void by delivering specific, unbiased information about what people think and why. The new survey thoroughly examines the American public’s views toward sentencing and related issues in an objective manner. The new survey was preceded by a review of past survey data. This review revealed that, similar to controversial issues like immigration, abortion, and capital punishment, sentencing is a topic on which public opinion cannot be properly characterized by simply relying on the general measures so commonly used. More specific lines of questioning were developed to dig deeper, clarify previous findings and identify the competing values and concerns underlying sentencing attitudes.

Continue reading at ncsc.orgarrow1