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Decades of research on public opinion about crime reveal varying, yet relatively punitive attitudes that are often riddled with misconceptions. Sparked by the increased media and legislative attention devoted to sex offenders beginning in the 1990s, researchers began to more closely examine public opinion about sexual offenses. Findings suggest the public adheres to several misconceptions about sexual offenses and supports harsh sanctions for offenders. However, further research is warranted to more closely examine the relationships among these variables. Thus, the goal of the present study was to survey Pennsylvania residents to examine the degree to which misconceptions about sexual offenses inform punitiveness. The results supported the hypotheses in that a high level of support for misconceptions and punitiveness was identified, and adherence to misconceptions was the strongest predictor of punitiveness. These findings demonstrate a clear need for educational and awareness efforts to dispel public misconceptions about sexual offending and victimization.

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King, Laura L. "Perceptions About Sexual Offenses: Misconceptions, Punitiveness, and Public Sentiment", Criminal Justice Policy Review, 30(2), pp. 254-273. Copyright © 2019 (SAGE). Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications. doi: 10.1177/0887403416660150