Jaeyong Choi

Date of Award

Summer 8-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Criminology and Criminal Justice

First Advisor

Daniel R. Lee

Second Advisor

Alida V. Merlo

Third Advisor

Bitna Kim

Fourth Advisor

Yongtao Cao


The American Time Use Survey (2017), sponsored by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed that U.S. citizens who were 15 years old or more spent 2.7 hours per day watching television. This number accounted for more than half of leisure time. Considering the widely examined media effects on audiences’ perceptions (Morgan & Shanahan, 2010), increased availability of the media may, in part, explain why public perceptions of the police have become more negative over the last two decades (Gallup, 2017). Nonetheless, only a handful of studies were conducted to examine if and how the media affect perceptions of police (e.g., Callanan & Rosenberger, 2011). This research answers how and when the media are related to perceptions of police. Additionally, this study elaborates on mechanisms through which the media shape perceptions of police based on a wide range of scholarship.

The current study provides evidence concerning media impact on perceptions of police with strong internal validity based on a randomized experimental design using a student sample. The current findings indicate that media exposure can matter, particularly when it introduces negative images of police. Even when mixed images of police were presented, participants were more driven by the negative portrayal. This finding is in line with an asymmetrical impact of negative encounters with police relative to positive encounters (Skogan, 2006b), supporting that “bad is stronger than good” (Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Finkenauer, & Vohs, 2001). Additionally, there was an interaction effect between respondents’ majors and the mixed condition. When media presented two contrasting images of police, both Criminology and Criminal Justice (CJ) majors and non-CJ majors experienced a reduction in confidence in the police, but this negative effect was more pronounced among non-CJ majors. Additional statistical analyses revealed that perceptions of crime and community mediated some of the media effects on perceptions. Overall, many hypothesized effects were not found to be statistically significant, and several relationships found to be statistically significant had weak effect sizes. Implications for criminal justice policy and future research are presented.