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August 11, 2010

"Pluralistic Ignorance and Punitiveness Towards Illicit Drug Users: Reactions to the Drug Fiends of Yesteryear and the Politicians of Today"

The title of this post is the title of this interesting piece I just noticed on SSRN by Matthew Kugler and John Darley.  Here is the abstract:

Three studies found that Americans have less punitive attitudes towards drug users than expected.  In Study 1, participants (N = 204) assign trivial punishments to cocaine users who have no prior criminal record and aggravate sentences only slightly when faced with users who have histories of moderate to severe crimes, in contrast to current legal guidelines.  In Study 2, participants (N = 166) assign the same penalties to a violent offender regardless of whether that offender is described as being a drug addict, only aggravating the sentence of the drug user if that scenario was presented after one describing a non-user.  Participants in Study 2 also report believing that the average American is much more supportive of harsh drug laws than they are themselves, and this difference did not vary with political orientation. This suggests that pluralistic ignorance may play a substantial role in the drug policy attitudes of the American public.  We directly tested this hypothesis in Study 3 (N = 201).  In a survey study, liberal and moderate participants report supporting a law-and-order-focused candidate less, and a rehabilitation-focused candidate more, than they expect the average person in their state would.  At all points in the political spectrum, participants estimate that the average person in their state has drug policy preferences that are actually typical only of Republicans.

August 11, 2010 at 06:46 PM | Permalink


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For what seems like decades now, you haven't been able to stand a conservative politician in front of a mic without hearing the phrase "America is a center-right country."

So why would anyone be surprised the Republicans' mind-numbingly repetitive message bombardment has had a profound effect on how lots of Americans believe their fellow Americans view things?

Posted by: John K | Aug 13, 2010 10:17:30 AM

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