Journalism and Mass Communications
16 Feb 2018

“The Bad Guys”: Examining Consumer Perceptions and Media Myths about Registered Sex Offenders

This study explores the impact that media can have on consumer perceptions and myths regarding registered sex offenders. Using an online survey (n = 200) and four previously-tested scales, this study found that when confronted with dissonant depictions of sex offenders and real-life impact of the law, overall views regarding sex offenders and belief in the laws that govern them lessen. Participants were also found to be more likely to interact with a sex offender socially after being presented with dissonant depictions of sex offenders and real-life impact of the law, indicating that knowledge of the criminal’s gender and the law’s impact on their life affects social distance intent. Belief in common media myths were found to be relatively low, but increased usage of media did impact participant’s attitudes regarding the dangerousness of sex criminals. Fear of crime was found to be a mediating factor between gender and attitudes toward sex offenders. Practical and theoretical implications are also discussed.

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