Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Criminology and Criminal Justice

First Advisor

Dr. Miriam DeLone


This study analyses the influence of media consumption, specifically an individual's viewing of television and their reading of newspapers, on their perceptions of how the court system deals with suspected criminals during sentencing. Data are analyzed from the 1993 General Social Survey (GSS), which is a nationwide survey administered by the National Opinion Research Council (NORC) on a semi-annual basis. The variables related to mass media use are based on self-reporting. Two explanations, frequently cited in the criminal justice literature, the cultivation hypothesis (Gerbner et al., 1978) and Fiske’s (1986) and subcultural identities, also known as interpretive communities, will be used in explaining the results. The hypotheses are that as the frequency of newspaper reading and television news viewing increase, as well as total television viewing, the more likely the respondent will perceive the courts as being ‘not harsh enough.’ Variables that previous research indicates are important explanations of perceptions, such as race, income, and education, are included in the analysis. Results indicate a lack of support for the Cultivation hypothesis as there is no direct relationship between any of the mass media variables and the measure of citizen perception. The findings support an interpretive communities explanation of media effect on perceptions of the criminal justice system.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Criminal Justice and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright Steven John Briggs August, 2003