Attitudes Toward Police Resistant to Change and Predicted by Race and Experience

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CONFERENCE: Showcase of Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors (SOURCE)

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Bailey, Morgan
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Our study manipulated a presentation of information about police officers to investigate if the delivery method impacted attitude change. We hypothesized that a factual presentation would result in greater attitude change than an emotional presentation. We also hypothesized, in line with previous research, that personal experiences with police would predict attitudes toward them. Participants were 32 men, 55 women, and 1 transgender adult, with a mean age of 21.25 (SD = 2.17). First, we used published scales to assess attitudes toward and experiences with police officers. We also created a knowledge survey using federal and national government websites. Next, participants were randomly assigned to read identical information about the salary and job experiences of police officers presented in either an emotional narrative or a (same-length) factual report. We did a manipulation check to verify that participants read, and then had them respond to the same questions about their attitudes toward police officers, allowing us to create a change score. Our first hypothesis was not supported. As previous research argued, there was no attitude change regardless of information presentation format. In other words, attitudes toward the police were stable, even in the face of new information. Adults who encountered the emotional version of the information expressed greater resistance to changing their attitude, perhaps seeing the emotional nature of the narrative as manipulative. Race, politics, religion, personal experience, and SES predicted attitudes about police, while gender and knowledge were less influential. These findings help us further understand the complexity of police-citizen interactions and the associated public perceptions.