Title Anger and Support for Vigilante Justice in Mexico’s Drug War
Post date 05/04/2017
C1 Background and Explanation of Rationale

In this study we test whether exposure to severe violence increases support for punitive and vigilante punishment of criminals. We draw on cognitive appraisal theory from psychology to theorize that severe violence causes people to feel outraged, which in turn increases perceptions of blame and preferences for punitiveness in criminal justice policy.

C2 What are the hypotheses to be tested?

Observational predictions:
Prediction 1: Exposure to violence will increase anger.
Prediction 2A: Exposure to violence will increase support for harsher, more punitive punishments.
Prediction 2B: Exposure to violence will increase support for extrajudicial punishments.
Experimental predictions:
Prediction 3A: Individuals exposed to more severe crime scenarios will favor harsher, more punitive punishments.
Prediction 3B: Individuals exposed to more severe crime scenarios will favor extrajudicial punishments.
Heterogeneous effects of treatments:
Prediction 4: People with more positive attitudes towards vengeance will be even more supportive of harsh and extrajudicial punishments for crimes with innocent victims or more severe violence.
Prediction 5: People with more exposure to violence will be even more supportive of harsh and extrajudicial punishments for crimes with innocent victims or more severe violence.

C3 How will these hypotheses be tested? *

We use three separate observational and experimental tests to elicit these preferences and to test whether the emotion of anger plays an important role in the process. First, we test observationally whether people who are exposed to more violence report feeling anger more frequently than those who are not, assign higher overall levels of blame to actors involved in the Mexican drug conflict, and report preferences for more punitive policies. Second, we use a survey experiment that is specifically designed to generate “moral outrage” by violating community norms to test whether extreme and counter-normative violence 1) induces higher levels of anger, and 2) causes people to prefer extrajudicial and harsh punishments. Finally, we use a second set of 120 randomly generated scenarios to elicit preferences for criminal justice policy across a wide range of perpetrators, victims, and types of violence. We again test whether across this broad spectrum of common types of violence, more severe violence against more innocent victims 1) induces higher levels of anger, and 2) causes people to prefer extrajudicial and harsh punishments.

C4 Country Mexico
C5 Scale (# of Units) 1200
C6 Was a power analysis conducted prior to data collection? No
C7 Has this research received Insitutional Review Board (IRB) or ethics committee approval? Yes
C8 IRB Number American University - IRB201727; Stanford University - IRB-40182
C9 Date of IRB Approval American University - July 19, 2016; Stanford University - Feb 23, 2017
C10 Will the intervention be implemented by the researcher or a third party? Buendia y Laredo
C11 Did any of the research team receive remuneration from the implementing agency for taking part in this research? No
C12 If relevant, is there an advance agreement with the implementation group that all results can be published? not provided by authors
C13 JEL Classification(s) D74 (Conflict Processes), D72