Publication Date

8-2017

Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)

6-16-2017

Type of Culminating Activity

Thesis - Boise State University Access Only

Degree Title

Master of Arts in Political Science

Department

Political Science

Major Advisor

Lori Hausegger, Ph.D.

Advisor

Ross Burkhart, Ph.D.

Advisor

Stephen M. Utych, Ph.D.

Abstract

Are members of the public able to act impartially when selected for a jury or does racial bias factor into their decisions? This is the question that my study attempts to answer. The topic of racial bias in jury decision making is a subject that is difficult to study, due to the problem of access. A researcher cannot sit in on an actual deliberation. In an attempt to answer my question, I conducted an experimental study on jury decision making among undergraduate students at Boise State University, by use of a survey. In the experiment, I varied the name, and thereby the perceived race, of the defendant. In the treatment group, participants were exposed to a black defendant, while in the control group, participants were exposed to a white defendant. There were 286 responses to my survey over a 12-day period in early 2017. In order to evaluate the results, I conducted a difference in means test between the treatment and control group (a t-test) in my analyses. Difference of means tests were appropriate since there were no differences between the treatment and control group in observed demographic characteristics. The 286 responses that were used were sufficient for data analysis, considering there were only two experimental groups. My hypothesis regarding the treatment alias (seemingly black) being convicted more often than the control analysis (seemingly white) was not supported. The analysis showed that the control alias was convicted more often. This study has implications regarding jury selection that can be used in real world situations. If an attorney knows these concepts and results, it may help to create an impartial jury.

DOI

https://doi.org/10.18122/B2C99J

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