Exposure to Images of Police-Civilian Interactions and Public Opinion about Law Enforcement and Government: An Experimental Test

Resource Type
Dataset : experimental data, images: photographs, drawings, graphical representations, survey data
  • Wozniak, Kevin (University of Massachusetts Boston)
  • Calfano, Brian (University of Cincinnati)
  • Drakulich, Kevin (Northeastern University)
Publication Date
Funding Reference
  • University of Massachusetts Boston
    • Award Number: Joseph P. Healey Research Grant
Free Keywords
police; police equipment; police effectiveness; police citizen interactions; police misconduct; experiment; media; trust in government; public opinion; police militarization; vote preference
  • Abstract

    The confrontations between civilian protesters and police forces in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 and Baltimore, Maryland in 2015 sparked a renewed public debate about the “militarization” of the police. Politicians and pundits expressed concern that the images and video of police officers confronting civilian protesters armed with machine guns and armored vehicles disseminated through mainstream and social media would undermine the mass public’s trust in law enforcement and rule of law, more broadly. We treated this concern as an empirical question. In May 2016, we fielded a survey experiment to a sample of participants drawn from Qualtrics’ national, online, opt-in panel. We randomly-exposed participants to one of three news pictures that depicted a spectrum of police-civilian interactions, ranging in nature from friendly to hostile. Images were designed to evoke thoughts of militarized policing, community policing, and stop-and-frisk policing. This survey data set also includes a variety of questions that allow researchers to test the effect of exposure to images of police-civilian interactions on confidence in local and national governments; confidence in local and national police; perceptions of police misconduct; perceptions of police bias; and public opinion about police weapons, equipment, and gear. Questions are also included to operationalize a range of demographic and political characteristics of participants.
Temporal Coverage
  • 2016-05-06 / 2016-05-13
    Collection Date(s): Fri May 06 00:00:00 EDT 2016--Fri May 13 00:00:00 EDT 2016
Geographic Coverage
  • National population of the United States
Sampled Universe
English-speaking persons age 18 or older who live in the United States of America
Collection Mode
  • web-based survey;

This study is freely available to the general public via web download.
  • Is version of
    DOI: 10.3886/E117544
  • Wozniak, Kevin H., Brian R. Calfano, and Kevin M. Drakulich. “A ‘Ferguson Effect’ on 2016 Presidential Vote Preference? Findings from a Framing Experiment Examining ‘Shy Voters’ and Cues Related to Policing and Social Unrest.” Social Science Quarterly 100, no. 4 (June 2019): 1023–38. https://doi.org/10.1111/ssqu.12622.
    • ID: 10.1111/ssqu.12622 (DOI)
  • Wozniak, Kevin H., Kevin M. Drakulich, and Brian R. Calfano. “Do Photos of Police-Civilian Interactions Influence Public Opinion about the Police? A Multimethod Test of Media Effects.” Journal of Experimental Criminology, January 25, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11292-020-09415-0.
    • ID: 10.1007/s11292-020-09415-0 (DOI)

Update Metadata: 2021-02-10 | Issue Number: 1 | Registration Date: 2021-02-10