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Anger versus fear about crime: how common is it, where does it come from, and why does it matter?

NCJ Number
Crime Law and Social Change Dated: 2021
Date Published

This study used a nationally representative survey conducted by the ANES to verify what is already known about anger versus fear about crime and then asked new questions about the potential sources and other potential consequences of anger about crime.


Although a long history of scholarship has explored fear as an affective reaction to the prospect of crime, a much smaller number of studies have suggested that anger may be both more common and more predictive of punitive policy views (e.g. Ditton et al. International Review of Victimology 6:83-99, 1999a; Johnson Punishment & Society 11:51-66, 2009; Hartnagel & Templeton Punishment & Society 14:452-74, 2012). This difference matters in that fear and anger imply different stories; fear can be personal while anger necessarily draws our attention to social meanings and connects to broader issues like race relations and racism. The current study found that although personal victimizations were associated with fear, victimizations of acquaintances were associated with anger. Anger appears rooted in both racial resentment and the racial context. In turn, although the fearful were supportive of a wide range of approaches to addressing social problems, the angry were only more supportive of crime spending and in fact opposed social assistance spending. Implications for research on affective reactions to crime and for crime-relevant policies are discussed. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2021