The Vicarious Bases of Perceived Injustice

Abstract

Profound differences exist in how Americans from various racial and ethnic groups view police and court officials. We argue that vicarious experiences contribute to this racial and ethnic divide. Drawing on research on social communication, social network composition, and negativity biases in perception and judgment, we devise a theoretical framework to articulate why vicarious experiences magnify racial and ethnic disparities in evaluations of judicial actors. Four hypotheses are tested using original survey data from the state of Washington. Results provide strong evidence that vicarious experiences influence citizens’ evaluations of both police and courts, and they do so in a manner that widens racial divides in how those actors are perceived.

Publication
American Journal of Political Science
Date
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