Skip to main content

Presidential Candidates and State Crime: Views of Some U.S. College Students

Abstract

This is a preliminary investigation of hawkish public opinion, understood as criminogenic in that it provides political support for state crimes of aggressive militarism. Our critical criminology approach treats public support for, or acceptance of, state aggression as part of criminogenic political culture. Despite growing interest among critical criminologists in broader perspectives on state crime and the politics of culture, there has been no work on this topic. Our survey of 53 criminal justice students at a liberal arts college finds both hawkish (militarist) and dovish (peaceful) beliefs and preferences regarding U.S. policy and the two major 2008 presidential candidates, Obama and McCain. We investigate whether authoritarianism helps explain hawkish opinions, but find little evidence for that expectation. We find evidence of respondent underestimation of the hawkishness of U.S. politics. We also find extensive evidence of dovish policy preferences, such as approval of diplomacy, a major attraction to Obama.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Altemeyer, B. (2006). The authoritarians. Winnipeg, Canada: Cherry Hill Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  • Alvarez, A. (2008). Destructive beliefs: genocide and the role of ideology. In A. Smeulers & R. Haveman (Eds.), Supranational criminology: towards a criminology of international crimes (pp. 213–231). Antwerp; Portland: Intersentia.

    Google Scholar 

  • Boggs, C. (2003a). Masters of war: militarism and blowback in the era of American empire (1st ed.). New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Boggs, C. (2003b). Outlaw nation: the legacy of U.S. war crimes. In C. Boggs (Ed.), Masters of war: Militarism, blowback in the era of American empire (pp. 191–226). New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • CNNPolitics.com. 2008. “Transcript of Second McCain, Obama Debate.” Available at: http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/10/07/presidential.debate.transcript/#cnnSTCText [Accessed February 27, 2009].

  • de Lint, W. (2004). Neoconservativism and American counter-terrorism: endarkened policy? In M. Deflem (Ed.), Terrorism and counter-terrorism: Criminological perspectives. New York: Elsevier/JAI Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Domhoff, G. W. (2002). The power elite, public policy, and public opinion. In J. Manza, F. L. Cook & B. I. Page (Eds.), Navigating public opinion: Polls, policy, and the future of American democracy (pp. 124–137). New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Enloe, C. (2007). Globalization and militarism: Feminists make the link. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ferrell, J., Hayward, K., & Young, J. (2008). Cultural criminology: An invitation. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications Ltd.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gallup, Inc. 2009. “Military and National Defense.” Available at: http://www.gallup.com/poll/1666/military-national-defense.aspx [Accessed December 18, 2009].

  • Galtung, J. (2002). Americanization versus globalization. In B.-R. Eliezer & S. Yitzhak (Eds.), Identity, culture, globalization (p. 716). London: Brill.

    Google Scholar 

  • Joseph, P. (2007). Are Americans becoming more peaceful?. Boulder: Paradigm Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kauzlarich, D. (2007). Seeing war as criminal: Peace activist views and critical criminology. Contemporary Justice Review: Issues in Criminal, Social and Restorative Justice, 10(1), 67.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kellner, D. (2003). From 9/11 to terror war: The dangers of the bush legacy. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kramer, R. C., & Michalowski, R. J. (2005). War, aggression and state crime: A criminological analysis of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. British Journal of Criminology, 45, 446–469.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kramer, R. C., Michalowski, R. J., & Rothe, D. (2005). The supreme international crime: How the U.S. war in Iraq threatens the rule of law. Social Justice, 32(2), 52–81.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lieven, A. (2004). America right or wrong: An anatomy of American nationalism. USA: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • McCulloch, J. (2004). Blue armies, khaki police and the cavalry on the new American frontier: Critical criminology for the 21st century. Critical Criminology, 12(3), 309–326.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pearce, F., & Tombs, S. (2002). States, corporations and the “new” world order. In G. W. Potter (Ed.), Controversies in white-collar crime (pp. 185–222). Cincinnati, OH: Anderson.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rothe, D. L., & Friedrichs, D. O. (2006). The state of the criminology of crimes of the state. Social Justice, 33, 147–162.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rothe, D., et al. (2009). That was then, this is now, what about tomorrow? Future directions in state crime studies. Critical Criminology, 17(1), 3–13.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Shalom, S. (1993). Imperial alibis: Rationalizing U.S. intervention after the cold war. Boston: South End Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Staub, E., & Bar-Tal, D. (2003). Genocide, mass killing, and intractable conflict: Roots, evolution, prevention, and reconciliation. In D. O. Sears, L. Huddy & R. Jervis (Eds.), Oxford handbook of political psychology (pp. 710–751). USA: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stenner, K. (2005). The authoritarian dynamic. New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Sykes, G. M., & Matza, D. (1957). Techniques of neutralization: A theory of delinquency. American Sociological Review, 22(6), 664–670.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Webber, C. (2007). Background, foreground, foresight: The third dimension of cultural criminology? Crime Media Culture, 3(2), 139–157.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Welch, M. (2007). Moral panic, denial and human rights: Scanning the spectrum from overreaction to underreaction. In D. Downes, P. Rock, C. Chinkin & C. Gearty (Eds.), Crime, social control and human rights: From moral panics to states of denial: Essays in honour of Stanley Cohen, (pp. 92–104). Portland, OR: Willan Publishing (UK).

    Google Scholar 

  • Whyte, D. (2007). Market patriotism and the “war on terror”. Social Justice, 34(3–4), 111–131.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

Thank you to Aida Kalapo and Diaghilev Lubin, Sacred Heart University Criminal Justice Department graduate students, for their assistance.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Josh Klein.

Appendix: Questionnaire

Appendix: Questionnaire

  • Student survey—presidential campaign and security issues

  • Web-based questionnaire

Introduction

This is an anonymous survey about national security and other topics. There are no right or wrong answers, this is just for your personal views. Thank you.

  1. 1.

    Please say how strongly you disagree or agree with this statement: “The only way our country can get through the crisis ahead is to get back to our traditional values, put some tough leaders in power, and silence the troublemakers spreading bad ideas.”

    1. 1.

      Very strongly disagree

    2. 2.

      Very strongly disagree

    3. 3.

      Strongly disagree

    4. 4.

      Moderately disagree

    5. 5.

      Slightly disagree

    6. 6.

      Exactly and precisely neutral

    7. 7.

      Slightly agree

    8. 8.

      Moderately agree

    9. 9.

      Strongly agree

    10. 10.

      Very strongly agree

  2. 2.

    Please say how strongly you agree or disagree with this statement: “Everyone should have their own lifestyle, religious beliefs, and sexual preferences, even if it makes them different from everyone else.”

    1. 1.

      Very strongly disagree

    2. 2.

      Strongly disagree

    3. 3.

      Moderately disagree

    4. 4.

      Slightly disagree

    5. 5.

      Exactly and precisely neutral

    6. 6.

      Slightly agree

    7. 7.

      Moderately agree

    8. 8.

      Strongly agree

    9. 9.

      Very strongly agree

  3. 3.

    Which of these best describes the role you think the US (United States) currently has in the world?…Bully, teacher, good neighbor, banker, relief worker, policeman

    1. 1.

      Bully

    2. 2.

      Teacher

    3. 3.

      Good neighbor

    4. 4.

      Banker

    5. 5.

      Relief worker

    6. 6.

      Policeman

  4. 4.

    Which of these best describes the role you would like the US (United States) to have?…Bully, teacher, good neighbor, banker, relief worker, policeman

    1. 1.

      Bully

    2. 2.

      Teacher

    3. 3.

      Good neighbor

    4. 4.

      Banker

    5. 5.

      Relief worker

    6. 6.

      Policeman

  5. 5.

    Which of the two major candidates said that in dealing with security threats, military options must simply be “kept off the table”? If you are not sure, what do think would be the right answer?

    1. 1.

      Obama

    2. 2.

      McCain

    3. 3.

      Both of them

    4. 4.

      Neither of them

  6. 6.

    Which of the two major candidates advocates getting rid of all our nuclear weapons, regardless of the actions of other nations? If you are not sure, what do think would be the right answer?

    1. 1.

      Obama

    2. 2.

      McCain

    3. 3.

      Both of them

    4. 4.

      Neither of them

  7. 7.

    Which of the two major candidates advocated the U.S. military action in Afghanistan after September 11, 2001? If you are not sure, what do think would be the right answer?

    1. 1.

      Obama

    2. 2.

      McCain

    3. 3.

      Both of them

    4. 4.

      Neither of them

  8. 8.

    Regarding the candidate’s foreign policies, those who prefer McCain say he is knowledgeable about world affairs and would be an effective commander in chief. They say Obama will rely too much on diplomacy and hesitate to take military action. Those who prefer Obama say he will improve the United States image, and reduce threats by negotiating. They say McCain will be too quick to take military action, and will increase anger at the United States. If you had to choose, which candidate’s foreign policy is closer to your preference? What facts or thoughts make you say that?

  9. 9.

    Experts debate whether the U. S. and British war in Iraq is legal or illegal. Some argue the war is legal because terrorist and rogue state threats are serious enough that attacking Iraq was justified. Others argue the war is illegal because aggression against another nation violates international law, and the claims about Iraqi threat were false. If you had to choose, which is closer to your view, that the war in Iraq is legal or illegal? What facts or thoughts make you say that?

  10. 10.

    Thinking about how the Bush administration has been acting in relation to other countries over the last 2 years, overall would you say that the Bush administration has tended to be:

    1. 1.

      Much too assertive

    2. 2.

      Somewhat too assertive

    3. 3.

      A little too assertive

    4. 4.

      Has the balance just right

    5. 5.

      A little too cooperative

    6. 6.

      Somewhat too cooperative

    7. 7.

      Much too cooperative

  11. 11.

    Please tell me if you agree or disagree with the following statement: the U.S. (United States) is playing role of the world policeman more than it should be.

    1. 1.

      Agree

    2. 2.

      Disagree

  12. 12.

    Do you think that the United States has the responsibility to play the role of ‘world policeman,’ that is, to fight violations of international law and aggression wherever they occur?

    1. 1.

      Yes

    2. 2.

      No

  13. 13.

    This question asks about a possible foreign policy goal that the United States might have. Please select whether you think that it should be a very important foreign policy goal of the United States, a somewhat important foreign policy goal, or not an important goal at all?

    • Preventing the spread of nuclear weapons

    • 1. very important foreign policy goal

    • 2. somewhat important foreign policy goal

    • 3. not an important goal at all

  1. 14.

    If the 2008 presidential election were being held today and the candidates were Barack Obama for President and Joe Biden for Vice President, the Democrats, and John McCain for President and Sarah Palin for Vice President, the Republicans, would you vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden or John McCain and Sarah Palin?

    • Obama/Biden

    • McCain/Palin

    • Other

    • Won’t vote or not sure

  1. 15.

    The following questions are just to help categorize your answers. Are you male or female?

    1. 1.

      Male

    2. 2.

      Female

  2. 16.

    What is your race/ethnicity?

    1. 1.

      White, Non-Hispanic

    2. 2.

      Black, Non-Hispanic

    3. 3.

      Other, Non-Hispanic

    4. 4.

      Hispanic

  3. 17.

    What is your region?

    1. 1.

      Northeast

    2. 2.

      Midwest

    3. 3.

      South

    4. 4.

      West

  4. 18.

    Generally speaking, do you think of yourself as a:

    1. 1.

      Republican

    2. 2.

      Independent

    3. 3.

      Democrat

    4. 4.

      Other

  5. 19.

    What is your religious preference? Do you consider yourself:

    1. 1.

      Christian

    2. 2.

      Jewish

    3. 3.

      Muslim

    4. 4.

      Buddhist

    5. 5.

      Hindu

    6. 6.

      Other religion

    7. 7.

      No religious preference

    8. 8.

      Agnostic

    9. 9.

      Atheist

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Klein, J., Lavery, C. Presidential Candidates and State Crime: Views of Some U.S. College Students. Crit Crim 18, 191–209 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10612-010-9097-5

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10612-010-9097-5

Keywords

  • Public Opinion
  • Foreign Policy
  • National Security
  • State Crime
  • Military Action