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Title: Political ideology, racism, and American identity : an examination of white Americans' support for the police use of excessive force
Author: Milani, Jenna
ISNI:       0000 0004 9355 4087
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2019
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Under what conditions do white Americans support police violence? And what are the terms by which they do so? This thesis explores how those who evince the strongest support for police, namely white Americans, “experience” incidents of excessive force, and examines the ideological mechanisms by which they make appraisals about policing. Across two online surveys of white American adults, varying the racial identity (white/black) of a police officer and suspect in a fictional scenario of violence showed no effect on respondents’ assessments of the encounter. Instead, ideological commitments to individualism, as measured in in just-world (Lerner 1980) and libertarian-authoritarian (Heath et al. 1994) attitudes, were associated with strikingly high levels of support for excessive force. I situate these empirical findings within a broader theoretical argument about white American identity, and the ideologies, mythologies, and pathologies that sustain it, namely the American Dream emphasis on desert, merit, and self-enterprise. I argue that excessive force is made legible through a frame of personal responsibility, with national and political identities influencing how white Americans, specifically, perceive and reconcile inequality. I suggest this way of “seeing” may explain why so many white Americans, in particular, continue to support the police. This research moves beyond identifying socio-demographic correlates for the approval of police violence, and uses rich theoretical examination and original survey data to investigate the role that racism and political ideology play in explaining white Americans’ beliefs about the appropriateness of excessive force.
Supervisor: Bradford, Ben ; Loader, Ian Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Criminology ; American Politics ; Social Psychology