Media use and punitivity

Media reconstruction of crime and its impact on peoples’ crime salience and punitivity


Project period


Project staff

Prof. Dr. Thomas Bliesener

Dr. Sören Kliem (project manager)

PD Dr. Florian Rehbein


Own funds

Project description

Following surveys in 2004, 2006 and 2010, KFN conducted a fourth nationwide representative survey focusing on people’s subjective assessment of crime trends in Germany, fear of crime, and punitive attitudes. Repetition of the surveys makes it possible to capture trends in such perceptions and attitudes. A further aim is to identify the determinants of punitivity. As the past surveys have been able to show, media consumption plays a key role in this regard. Analysis of the first three surveys showed that reading tabloid newspapers and watching private television news are linked with higher punitivity, whereas readers of quality national German newspapers are less punitive than non-readers. These relationships hold when controlling for covariates. The findings also show that while the population greatly overestimates crime trends, the degree of overestimation decreased between 2004 and 2010.

The most recent survey in 2014 incorporated new determinants of punitivity such as religiosity and empathy. A further element in investigating the relationship between media use and punitivity is analysis of crime reporting in the media. This is performed by content analysis of newspaper articles. Respondents’ television viewing the day preceding the interview is also brought into relationship with an analysis of the programmes viewed.


Project related publications
  • Hanslmaier, Michael; Baier, Dirk (2015): The effects of harm to and sympathy for the victim on punitive attitudes. Evidence from a factorial survey. In: Psychology, Crime & Law 21 (9), S. 890–900. DOI: 10.1080/1068316X.2015.1054388.
  • Baier, D., S. Kemme, M. Hanslmaier, B. Doering, F. Rehbein & C. Pfeiffer (2011). Kriminalitätsfurcht, Strafbedürfnisse und wahrgenommene Kriminalitätsentwicklung: Ergebnisse von bevölkerungsrepräsentativen Befragungen aus den Jahren 2004, 2006 und 2010. KFN-Forschungsbericht Nr. 117. Hannover: KFN.