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Toward A Better Understanding Of Politicized Policing Attitudes: Conflicted Conservatism And Support For Police Use Of Force



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America is in the midst of an extraordinary public debate about police policy. “Conflicted conservatives,” who are symbolically conservative but operationally liberal, may have a disproportionate influence on policy making. Specifically, conflicted conservatives may be more likely to vote across party lines because they attend more to utilitarian concerns about social conditions and government performance than to symbolic issues. Prior criminological research, however, typically has treated conservatives as a homogenous group. We use data from the General Social Survey to explore the extent and correlates of global and situational support for police use of force among conflicted conservatives and other political groups. The findings from logistic regression models estimated with two analytic samples (N = 11,119 and 2,069) indicate that conflicted conservatives’ attitudes about police use of force are distinct from those of “consistent conservatives” who are both symbolically and operationally conservative, but do not reflect a unique consideration of utilitarian concerns over symbolic beliefs. Two other notable findings emerged: 1) Racial attitudes predicted support for police use of excessive force invariably across political groups and 2) public support for excessive force increased substantially during the first decade of the twenty‐first century, sharply contrasting trends in general punitive sentiment.