“There Ought to Be a Law!”: Understanding Community Sentiment

  • Monica K. Miller
  • Jared Chamberlain


Whether it is the results of a national poll, a public demonstration, a Facebook post, or an op-ed article in the newspaper, it is difficult to go through a day and not be exposed to some form of community sentiment. At the very basic level, sentiment is one’s attitude toward or opinion about some attitude object, whether it is sentiment toward the president’s performance, whether laws should be enacted to restrict guns, or what should be included in school curriculum. Most people have opinions about a wide variety of issues, people, and things in their environment. Although the concept of community sentiment is very broad, this book is an attempt at consolidating knowledge about sentiment into one place. To narrow the focus of the book, we have chosen to focus on community sentiment toward laws and policies that affect children and families. The book first tackles some basic issues in this introduction chapter: What is a community? What is sentiment, how is it measured, and what influences it? Does—and should—sentiment affect laws and policies? After this introductory chapter, several chapters discuss how sentiment is measured and how it can change. Next, the book offers perspectives on how legal actions that conform with sentiment promote positive and negative perceptions of justice. Other chapters discuss how laws that have received positive sentiment can sometimes have negative and unintended outcomes. The book closes with a summary of the common themes and directions for future research in community sentiment.


Death Penalty Procedural Justice Legal Action Implicit Association Test Moral Panic 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Agnone, J. (2007). Amplifying public opinion: The policy impact of the U.S. environmental movement. Social Forces, 85(4), 1593–1620. doi: 10.1353/sof.2007.0059.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. American Amusement Machine Association v. Kendrick, 244 F.3d 572. (2001).Google Scholar
  3. Angle, P. M. (1991). Created equal?: The complete Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  4. Associated Press. (2013). Judge orders man who threatened police to hold ‘idiot’ sign. The Associated Press. Retrieved from
  5. Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002).
  6. Ayton, P., Pott, A., & Elwakili, N. (2007). Affective forecasting: Why can’t people predict their emotions? Thinking and Reasoning, 13(1), 62–80. doi: 10.1080/13546780600872726.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Blumenthal, J. A. (2003). Who decides? Privileging public sentiment about justice and the substantive law. UMKC Law Review, 72, 1–21.Google Scholar
  8. Blumenthal, J. A. (2004). Law and the emotions: The problems of affective forecasting. Indiana Law Journal, 80, 155–238.Google Scholar
  9. Bohm, R. M. (1998). American death penalty opinion: Past, present and future. In J. Acker, R. Bohm, & C. Lanier (Eds.), American’s experiment with capital punishment: Reflections on the past, present and future of the ultimate penal sanction (pp. 27–54). Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.Google Scholar
  10. Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Associations, 131 S. Ct. 2729. (2011).Google Scholar
  11. Burstein, P. (2003). The impact of public opinion on public policy: A review and an agenda. Political Research Quarterly, 56, 29–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Burstein, P. (2006). Why estimates of the impact of public opinion on public policy are too high: Empirical and theoretical implications. Social Forces, 84, 2273–2289. doi: 10.1353/sof.2006.0083.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Canes-Wrone, B., & Shotts, K. W. (2004). The conditional nature of presidential responsiveness to public opinion. American Journal of Political Science, 48(4), 690–706. doi: 10.1111/j.0092-5853.2004.00096.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Carter, T. J., Ferguson, M. J., & Hassin, R. R. (2011). A single exposure to the American flag shifts support toward republicanism up to 8 months later. Psychological Science, 1–8. doi: 10.1177/0956797611414726.
  15. Clore, G., & Bar-Anan, Y. (2007). Affect-as-information. In R. Baumeister, & K. Vohs (Eds.), Encyclopedia of social psychology (pp. 14–16). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. doi:
  16. Cohen, S. (1972). Folk devils and moral panics: The creation of the mods and rockers. London: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  17. Crandall, C. S., Ferguson, M. A., & Bahns, A. J. (2013). When we see prejudice: The normative window and social change. In C. Stangor & C. S. Crandall (Eds.), Stereotyping and prejudice (pp. 53–70). New York, NY: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  18. David, M., Rohloff, A., Petley, J., & Hughes, J. (2011). The idea of moral panic—Ten dimensions of dispute. Crime Media Culture, 7(3), 215–228. doi: 10.1177/1741659011417601.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Denno, D. W. (2000). The perils of public opinion. Hofstra Law Review, 28, 741–791.Google Scholar
  20. Druckman, J. N., Peterson, E., & Slothuus, R. (2013). How elite partisan polarization affects public opinion formation. The American Political Science Review, 107(1), 57–79. doi: 10.2307/23357757.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Edwards, C., & Hensley, W. (2001). Contextualizing sex offender management legislation and policy: Evaluating the problem of latent consequences in community notification laws. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 45(1), 83–101. doi: 10.1177/0306624X01451006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ellsworth, P. C., & Gross, S. R. (1994). Hardening of the attitudes: American’s views on the death penalty. Journal of Social Issues, 50(2), 19–52. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-4560.1994.tb02409.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fetherston, J., & Lenton, S. (2005). Community attitudes towards cannabis law and the proposed cannabis infringement notice scheme in western Australia. Drug and Alcohol Review, 24, 301–309. doi: 10.1080/09595230500263897.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Finkel, N. J. (2001). Commonsense justice: Jurors’ notions of the law. Cambridge, England: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Finkel, N. J., Hurabiell, M. L., & Hughes, K. C. (1993). Right to die, euthanasia, and community sentiment: Crossing the public/private boundary. Law and Human Behavior, 17(5), 487–506.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Fishkin, J. S., & Luskin, R. C. (2005). Experimenting with a democratic ideal: Deliberative polling and public opinion. Acta Politica, 40, 284–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972).Google Scholar
  28. Garlitz, J. D. (2006). The abolition of the juvenile death penalty in Roper v. Simmons. Nova Law Review, 30(3), 473–507.Google Scholar
  29. Garvey, S. P. (1998). Can shaming punishments educate? University of Chicago Law Review, 65(3), 733–794. doi: 10.2307/1600299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Goode, E., & Ben-Yehuda, N. (1994). Moral panics: The construction of deviance. Cambridge, England: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  31. Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153. (1976).Google Scholar
  32. Griffin, T., & Miller, M. K. (2008). Child abduction, AMBER alert, and “crime control theater.”. Criminal Justice Review, 33, 159–176. doi: 10.1177/0734016808316778.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Haney, C. (1997). Commonsense justice and capital punishment: Problematizing the “will of the people”. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 3(2–3), 303–337. doi: 10.1037/1076-8971.3.2-3.303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hans, V. P., & Vadino, N. (2000). Whipped by whiplash? The challenges of jury communication in lawsuits involving connective tissue injury. Tennessee Law Review, 67(3), 569–1019.Google Scholar
  35. Hatfield, D. (2007). Should the government regulate games? Retrieved from
  36. Horowitz, I. A., Kerr, N. L., Park, E. S., & Gockel, C. (2006). Chaos in the courtroom reconsidered: Emotional bias and juror nullification. Law and Human Behavior, 30, 163–181.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Huang, P. H., & Wu, H. (1994). More order without more law: A theory of social norms and organizational cultures. Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, 10(2), 390–406.Google Scholar
  38. Jennings, M. K., & Niemi, R. G. (1968). The transmission of political values from parent to child. The American Political Science Review, 62(1), 169–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Johnson, M. K., Rowatt, W. C., & Labouff, J. (2012). Priming christian religious concepts increases racial prejudice. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 1(2), 119–126. doi: 10.1177/1948550609357246.Google Scholar
  40. Kahan, D. M. (1996). What do alternative sanctions mean? University of Chicago Law Review, 63, 591–653.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kennedy v. Louisiana, 554 U.S. 407 (2008). Petition for rehearing. Retrieved from
  42. Kingdon, J. W. (1995). Agendas, alternatives and public policies. London, England: Longman.Google Scholar
  43. Krippendorff, K. (2005). The social construction of public opinion. Kommunikation über Kommunikation. Theorie, Methoden und Praxis. In E. Wienand, J. Westerbarkey, & A. Scholl (Eds.), Festschrift für Klaus Merten. Wiesbaden: VS-Verlag.Google Scholar
  44. Kubiak, S. P., & Allen, T. (2008). Public opinion regarding juvenile life without parole in consecutive statewide surveys. Crime and Delinquency, 57(4), 495–515. doi: 10.1177/0011128708317987.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ledgerwood, A., & Chaiken, S. (2007). Priming us and them: Automatic assimilation and contrast in group attitudes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93, 940–956.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Lindsey, S. C., Sigillo, A. E., & Miller, M. K. (2013). Attitudes toward parental involvement clauses in minor abortion laws and individual differences in religion, political affiliation, and attribution style among college students. Individual Differences Research, 11, 59–69.Google Scholar
  47. Lippman, W. (1922). Public opinion. New York, NY: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  48. Lockhart v. McCree, 476 U.S. 162 (1986).Google Scholar
  49. London, K., & Nunez, N. (2000). The effect of jury deliberations on jurors’ propensity to disregard inadmissible evidence. Journal of Applied Psychology, 85(6), 932. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.85.6.932.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. MacLennan, B., Kypri, K., Langley, J., & Room, R. (2011). Public opinion and local governmental alcohol policy: A study of seven New Zealand communities. Contemporary Drug Problems: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly, 38, 367–386.Google Scholar
  51. McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, 572 U.S. _____ (2014).Google Scholar
  52. McGuire, K. T., & Stimson, J. A. (2004). The least dangerous branch revisited: New evidence on Supreme Court Responsiveness to public preferences. Journal of Politics, 66, 1018–1035. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2508.2004.00288.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Mears, B., & Cohen, T. (2014). supreme court allows more private money in election campaigns. CNN Politics. Retrieved from
  54. Miller, J. D. (2004). Public understanding of, and attitudes toward, scientific research: What we know and what we need to know. Public Understanding of Science, 13(3), 273–294. doi: 10.1177/0963662504044908.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Miller v. California 413 U.S. 15. (1973).Google Scholar
  56. Miller, M. K., & Miller, L. (2014). What about the children? Therapeutic solutions for assisting female inmates and their children. In M. K. Miller, J. Chamberlain, & T. Wingrove (Eds.), Psychology, law, and the wellbeing of children. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Moran, G., & Cutler, B. L. (1991). The prejudicial impact of pretrial publicity. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 21, 345–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Oldmixon, E. A., & Calfano, B. R. (2007). The religious dynamics of decision making on gay rights issues in the U.S. House of Representatives 1993–2002. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 46, 55–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Patry, M. W. (2008). Attractive but guilty: Deliberation and the physical attractiveness bias. Psychological Reports, 102, 727–733. doi: 10.2466/Pro.102.3727-733.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Penry v. Lynaugh, 492 U.S. 302. (1989).Google Scholar
  61. Perlin, M. L. (1996). Myths, realities, and the political world: The anthropology of insanity defense attitudes. The Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 24, 5–26.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  62. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania, et al. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833. (1992).Google Scholar
  63. Poulson, R. L., Wuensch, K. L., & Brondino, M. J. (1998). Factors that discriminate among mock jurors’ verdict selections: Impact of the guilty but mentally ill verdict option. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 25, 366–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Proctor, J. L., Badzinski, D. M., & Johnson, M. (2002). Impact of media knowledge and perceptions of Megan’s law. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 13, 356–379. doi: 10.1177/088740302237804.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Reichert, J., & Miller, M. K. (2014). Social Cognitive processes and attitudes toward legal actions: Does receiving information affect community sentiment? Manuscript under review.Google Scholar
  66. Reichert, J., & Richardson, J. T. (2012). Decline of a moral panic: A social psychological and socio-legal examination of the current status of Satanism. Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, 16(2), 47–63. doi: 10.1525/nr.2012.16.2.47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Robinson, P. H., & Darley, J. M. (1995). Justice, liability, and blame: Community views and the criminal law. Harvard Law Review, 109(2), 518–523. doi: 10.2307/1341981.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Robinson, P. H., & Darley, J. M. (2007). Intuitions of justice: Implications of criminal law and justice policy. Southern California Law Review, 81(1), 1–68.Google Scholar
  69. Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113. (1973).Google Scholar
  70. Rudman, L. A., Greenwald, A. G., Mellott, D. S., & Schwartz, J. L. K. (1999). Measuring the automatic components of prejudice: Flexibility and generality of the implicit association test. Social Cognition, 17(4), 437–465. doi: 10.1521/soco.1999.17.4.437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Rugg, D. (1941). Experiments in wording questions. Public Opinion Quarterly, 5, 91–92. doi: 10.1086/265467.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Salerno, J. M., Najdowski, C. N., Stevenson, M. C., Wiley, T. R. A., Bottoms, B. L., Pimentel, P. S., et al. (2010). Psychological mechanisms underlying support for juvenile sex offender registry laws: Prototypes, moral outrage, and perceived threat. Behavioral Sciences & The Law, 28, 58–83. doi: 10.1002/bsl.921.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Salerno, J. M., Stevenson, M., Najdowski, C. J., Wiley, T. R. A., Bottoms, B. L., & Peter-Hagene, L. (2014). Applying sex offender laws to juvenile offenders: Biases against stigmitized youth. p 66–82. In M. K. Miller, J. Chamberlain, & T. Wingrove (Eds.), Psychology, law, and the wellbeing of children. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  74. Sheldon, K. M., Gunz, A., Nichols, C. P., & Ferguson, Y. (2010). Extrinsic value orientation and affective forecasting: Overestimating the rewards, underestimating the costs. Journal of Personality, 78(1), 149–178. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2009.00612.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Sicafuse, L. L., & Miller, M. K. (2010). Social psychological influences on the popularity of AMBER alerts. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 37, 1237–1254. doi: 10.1177/0093854810379618.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Sicafuse, L. L., & Miller, M. K. (2014). An analysis of public commentary supporting and opposing mandatory HPV vaccination: Should lawmakers trust public sentiment? In M. K. Miller, J. Chamberlain, & T. Wingrove (Eds.), Psychology, law, and the wellbeing of children. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  77. Siegrist, M., & Gutscher, H. (2006). Flooding risks: A comparison of lay people’s perceptions and expert assessments in Switzerland. Risk Analysis, 26, 971–979.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Sigillo, A., Miller, M. K., & Weiser, D. (2012). Attitudes toward non-traditional women using IVF: The importance of political affiliation and religious characteristics. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 4, 249–263. doi: 10.1037/a0027940.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Slovic, P., Fischoff, B., & Lichenstein, S. (1982). Facts versus fears: Understanding perceived risk. In D. Kahneman, P. Slovic, & A. Tversky (Eds.), Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases (pp. 436–489). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  80. Stanford v. Kentucky, 492 U.S. 361. (1989).Google Scholar
  81. Stevenson, M. C., Najdowski, C. J., & Wiley, T. A. (2013). Young adults’ understanding of juvenile sex offender registration laws. The Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 22, 103–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Stryker, J. (2005). Using shame as punishment/have sex, get infamous/Oakland will plaster names of johns on billboards. SFGate. Retrieved from
  83. Summers, A., & Miller, M. K. (2009). How social sciences can right thirty-five years worth of obscenity wrongs. Critical Issues in Justice and Politics, 3, 35–58.Google Scholar
  84. Thompson v. Oklahoma, 487 U.S. 815. (1988).Google Scholar
  85. Tourangeau, R., Rips, L. J., & Rasinski, K. (2000). The psychology of survey response. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Trzcinski, E., & Allen, T. (2012). Justice towards youth: Investigating the mismatch between current policy and public opinion. Children and Youth Services Review, 34(1), 27–35. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2011.07.014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1973). Availability: A heuristic for judging frequency and probability. Cognitive Psychology, 5, 207–233. doi: 10.1016/0010-0285(73)90033-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Tyler, T. R. (1990). Why people obey the law. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  89. Tyler, T. R. (2006). Psychological perspectives on legitimacy and legitimation. Annual Review of Psychology, 57, 375–400. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.57.102904.190038.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Tyler, T. R., & Rasinski, K. (1991). Procedural justice, institutional legitimacy, and the acceptance of unpopular U.S. supreme court decisions: A reply to Gibson. Law and Society Review, 25(3), 621–630. doi: 10.2307/3053729.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Vidmar, N., & Dittenhoffer, T. (1981). Informed public opinions and death penalty attitudes. Canadian Journal of Criminology, 23(1), 43–56.Google Scholar
  92. Weil, F. D. (1985). The variable effects of education on liberal attitudes: A comparative-historical analysis of anti-semitism using public opinion survey data. American Sociological Review, 50(4), 458–474.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Wenger, J. L., & Brown, R. O. (2014). Sport fans: Evaluating the consistency between implicit and explicit attitudes toward favorite and rival teams. Psychological Reports, 114(2), 572–584. doi: 10.2466/05.PR0.114k19w1.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Wexler, D. B., & Winick, B. J. (1996). Introduction. In D. B. Wexler & B. J. Winick (Eds.), Law in a therapeutic key: Developments in therapeutic jurisprudence. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press. pp. xvii–xx.Google Scholar
  95. Wiener, R. L., Krauss, D. A., & Lieberman, J. D. (2011). Mock jury research: Where do we go from here? Behavioral Sciences & The Law, 29(3), 467–479. doi: 10.1002/bsl.989.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Wood, B. D., & Lee, H. S. (2009). Explaining the president’s issue based liberalism: Pandering, partisanship, or pragmatism. The Journal of Politics, 71(4), 1577–1592.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Zgoba, K. M. (2004). Spin doctors and moral crusaders: The moral panic behind child safety legislation. Criminal Justice Studies, 17(4), 385–404. doi: 10.1080/1478601042000314892.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Criminal JusticeUniversity of Nevada, RenoRenoUSA
  2. 2.Arizona School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University, PhoenixPhoenixUSA

Personalised recommendations