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Compliance with the Law in Slovenia: The Role of Procedural Justice and Police Legitimacy

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Abstract

The empirical status of Tom Tyler’s (1990) process-based model of regulation is frustrated by the fact that most studies are conducted in the US, leaving open the question of whether similar effects can be observed in countries with different historical and political contexts. The current study tests two process-based model hypotheses using cross-sectional survey data from 683 young adults in Slovenia. The results reveal: (1) procedural justice judgments significantly shape individual perceptions of police legitimacy, and (2) perceived police legitimacy explains self-reported compliance with the law. Though slightly diminished in magnitude, the legitimacy effect persists when using an instrumental variable to address possible endogeneity bias and after statistically controlling for known correlates of law violating behavior (i.e., personal morality and low self-control). The findings also show that the legitimacy effect on compliance with different laws (e.g., littering and buying stolen property) varies depending on the operationalization of legitimacy (i.e., additive scale versus instrumental variable). While the findings indicate that the process-based model of regulation is germane to post-socialist countries such as Slovenia, more research focusing on the explanatory breadth of the model is necessary.

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Notes

  1. It is important to note that this approach to measuring legitimacy is not without criticism; for example, some have argued that both obligation and trust are conceptually distinct from legitimacy (see, e.g., Kaina 2008; Bottoms and Tankebe 2012; Tankebe 2013).

  2. The use of this data-analytic approach to address endogeneity concerns is common in other fields, such as economics and finance (see, e.g., Irwin and Terviö 2002; Mueller 2010).

  3. Guided by prior theory and research conceptualizing discrimination as a stressful experience that (in)directly influences criminal offending (Agnew 2005; Burt et al. 2012; Unnever et al. 2009), the influence of procedural justice on compliance is also assessed (not shown). Three OLS regression models are estimated. First, compliance is regressed onto age, male, and procedural justice (β = 0.17, p < 0.001). Second, the police legitimacy scale is added to the equation, reducing the standardized procedural justice effect (β = 0.09, p < 0.05) by nearly 48 %. Finally, low self-control and personal morality are also taken into account, which renders the effect of procedural justice statistically insignificant. When coupled with prior research on the indirect effects of procedural justice on compliance (see, e.g., Murphy and Tyler 2008), these findings suggest that interest in the matter is not altogether misplaced.

  4. To ensure that the reported parameter estimates are not biased by the operational form of the theoretical variables, two alternative variable construction strategies (i.e., weighted-factor scores and mean scores) are also used. In terms of sign and significance, the results closely mirror those reported in Tables 2, 3, and 4. As such, the observed findings appear robust across operationalization processes.

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Correspondence to Michael D. Reisig.

Appendices

Appendix A

Table 6 Summary statistics for scale items

Appendix B

Table 7 Pearson’s correlation coefficients

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Reisig, M.D., Tankebe, J. & Mesko, G. Compliance with the Law in Slovenia: The Role of Procedural Justice and Police Legitimacy. Eur J Crim Policy Res 20, 259–276 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10610-013-9211-9

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