Monday, January 25, 2021

Women had more favorable attitudes toward the police; those who were victims of crime or had more fear of crime had less satisfaction with the police

What matters in citizen satisfaction with police: A meta-analysis. Michelle A. Bolger, Daniel J. Lytle, P. Colin Bolger. Journal of Criminal Justice, Volume 72, January–February 2021, 101760.

Rolf Degen's take: Rolf Degen on Twitter: Meta-analysis: Women have more favorable attitudes toward the police than men.


• We provide the first full meta-analysis of studies examining various factors predicting citizen satisfaction with police.

• We included 66 independent studies in our analysis.

• Random effects analyses revealed that race, age, gender, fear of crime, and victimization were statistically significant.

• Moderating analyses revealed Tthat inclusion of certain variables had impacts on other variable effect sizes.

• In sum, patterns across demographics are consistent with most prior research, but other key variables must be included.

• Furthermore, future research must work to standardize measurement of citizen satisfaction with police.


Purpose: While there has been a sizeable amount of research on identifying the correlates of citizen satisfaction with police agencies, that research has not been synthesized to identify patterns across different studies. This study presents the results of a meta-analysis that assessed the predictive strength of the most commonly included correlates of satisfaction with police.

Methods: An exhaustive search for studies on satisfaction with police produced 66 studies eligible for inclusion in the meta-analysis. Random effects models were conducted along with moderating analyses.

Results: Findings revealed that gender, race, age, fear of crime, and victimization were statistically significant predictors of satisfaction with police. Moderating analyses revealed that certain variables, Hispanic ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and perceptions of crime, while not significant in the main effect size analysis, were significant in the moderator analysis.

Conclusions: It is important that future research establishes a more standardized form of measurement for satisfaction, with the consideration that confidence and trust may operate as distinct constructs. Additionally, it is imperative to move beyond investigating demographic factors alone and instead focus on variables related to procedural justice, performance theory, and neighborhood context.

Keywords: Satisfaction with policeTrustConfidenceMeta-analysis

5. Discussion

The results of this meta-analysis provide three insights. First, findings generally support previous studies regarding demographic effects. Second, findings suggest the need for inclusion of citizen experience and neighborhood perception variables such as fear of crime and victimization in studies examining citizen satisfaction. Third, findings highlight the need for more uniform and direct measurement of satisfaction with police.

As expected, gender, age, race, victimization, and fear of crime were statistically significant predictors of satisfaction. Consistent with most previous research, education and socioeconomic status were not statistically significant in either analysis. Surprisingly, prior police contact was not statistically significant despite being noted as a significant predictor in previous studies (Frank et al., 1996Frank et al., 2005Rosenbaum et al., 2005). This may be due, in part, to a relatively small number of studies which included the variable and potential interaction effects with other variables such as race, victimization, or fear of crime. Another potential explanation is that the measurement varies widely across studies. Perhaps prior police contact may not be influential, in some studies, measured as a binary prior police contact, but the quality and nature of the police-citizen interaction is important (Dai & Jiang, 2016Frank et al., 1996Rosenbaum et al., 2005Schafer et al., 2003Skogan, 2005Wells, 2007). A perceived negative interaction has a substantially greater impact on someone's global perceptions with the police, while a perceived positive interaction does not have the same impact (Dai & Jiang, 2016Schafer et al., 2003). It should be noted that the mean effect size for prior police contact was just outside the margin for statistical significance (p = .054). As such, future studies should include measures of prior police contact whenever possible in order to discern if it does make a difference in global perceptions of satisfaction with the police. Fear of crime, though relatively weak, was statistically significant in predicting satisfaction. Fear of crime and additional neighborhood perception variables, including physical and social disorder, should also be employed in studies surrounding satisfaction with police.

Another important finding is that some of the variables that were not significant in the general random-effects modeling mean effect size analysis were significant in the moderator analysis. Hispanic ethnicity and SES produced significant mean effect sizes when other correlates were included in the analysis. Hispanic ethnicity was related to police satisfaction when studies included measures of education, fear of crime, and victimization. SES was significant when race and prior police contact were measured. These findings could indicate that consistency in variables measured is an important consideration in studies of police satisfaction, and the model misspecification may mask important findings. It may be especially important to consider Hispanic ethnicity as a separate correlate from race given that Lytle (2014) found that Hispanic individuals were more likely to be arrested and Engel, Cherkauskas, Smith, Lytle, and Moore (2009) found that Hispanic individuals were more likely to be searched, but were significantly less likely to have contraband seized from the stop. As such, it is possible that Hispanic individuals may be more likely to have negative experiences with police.

Where the study occurs is generally not significant, which means that perceptions of police do not appear to vary based on whether the study is conducted in the United States or abroad or whether the environment is urban or rural. There were two exceptions to this from the moderator analysis. First, SES was significant in studies conducted outside of the United States, and Hispanic ethnicity was significant in studies that examined a mixture of environments relative to urban only studies and rural only studies.

Finally, a few measurement nuances were noted in the moderating analyses. Namely, gender produced greater effect sizes in OLS as opposed to probit and logistic regression, indicating that the level of measurement is important. Regarding the impact of SES, it was statistically significant when satisfaction was operationalized as trust only, but not with any other conceptualizations (confidence or general satisfaction). These findings suggest the need for more uniform measures of satisfaction with police. More uniformity in the conceptualization and level of measurement will aid in the inclusion of more studies in future reviews and will aid in our ability to make stronger conclusions about predictors of citizen satisfaction.

5.1. Limitations

There are important limitations to consider when interpreting our findings. First, there was wide variation in how the dependent variable was measured. This limits our ability to make stronger conclusions regarding the main effect sizes of various correlates with satisfaction. Indeed, moderating analyses suggested that there were differences in effect sizes based on conceptualization. We chose to include conceptualizations of trust, satisfaction, and multifaceted global measures of satisfaction to be as inclusive as possible. These varying measures are not necessarily invalid, but our analyses suggest that a more standardized measurement may be more useful, and as Cao (2015) suggested, satisfaction, confidence, and trust may indeed operate as distinct constructs. Second, there are other theoretically supported variables surrounding procedural justice theory and neighborhood factors such as concentrated disadvantage, physical and social disorder, and collective efficacy that were not included in our analyses. The absence of these variables was simply because too few studies included measures of these constructs to include in the analyses. We suggest that future research include measures of procedural justice, concentrated disadvantage, physical and social disorder, and collective efficacy whenever possible.

Finally, there were small sample sizes for some key variables we included, namely victimization, fear of crime, and prior police contact. The small sample size may have played a role in the lack of significance for prior police contact, and the fact that fail-safe N values for victimization and fear of crime were moderately stable. For instance, 25 of the 66 studies (37.88%) included victimization. Fear of crime was included in 21 of the 66 (31.81%). Even so, these variables retained statistical significance in random-effects models. Previous research has suggested that these key variables have predicted satisfaction above and beyond citizen characteristics, supporting theories surrounding performance theory and procedural justice. As such, it is imperative that future research includes these constructs when examining satisfaction with police.

The small sample size could be to blame for the lack of significance for prior police contact and Hispanic ethnicity. This is especially true for Hispanic ethnicity, given the significance of race. Of the 66 studies analyzed, only 15 (22.72%) examined Hispanic ethnicity, and 18 (27.27) included a measure of prior police contact. Future research should pursue attempts to measure these potentially relevant variables given the significance of analogous measures.

6. Conclusion

Despite our limitations, this meta-analysis provides important insights for research surrounding satisfaction with police. First, there is a consistent finding that, based on the studies analyzed, people that have been victims of crime are significantly less satisfied with police. This may indicate that police are doing a subpar job of serving the needs of crime victims. Moreover, this may be exacerbated among minority communities. In support of the majority of prior studies, race remains a statistically significant predictor of satisfaction with police. Based on the studies examined in this meta-analysis, police should make a concerted effort to improve the services they provide to these groups. For practitioners, as police departments across the United States struggle with community relations, particularly relations with African-American communities, these findings point to the importance of adding citizen experiences of victimization and perceptions of police contact as key measures for evaluating agency performance. While demographic factors should always be included in models predicting satisfaction, it is critical that other theoretically supported constructs such as fear of crime, victimization, and prior police contact are also included. It is important to note that the relationship between fear of crime and police satisfaction may be nuanced. Fear of crime was significantly related to police satisfaction in the main effect size analysis. However, based on the moderator analysis, when race, Hispanic ethnicity, or victimization were measured, fear of crime was not significant.

Citizen satisfaction with police has ripple effects regarding compliance with the law (Bolger & Walters, 2019Murphy et al., 2008Murphy et al., 2009Murphy & Cherney, 2012Sunshine & Tyler, 2003Tyler & Fagan, 2008). Additionally, research has indicated that citizen satisfaction impacts willingness to report a crime (Boateng, 2018Goudriaan et al., 2006Watkins, 2005). Given these two findings, increasing citizen satisfaction could improve policing efficiency in general. Based on the findings from this analysis, police have a significant problem with certain groups within society, non-white, younger individuals, those that fear crime, and victims of crime all expressed less satisfaction than their similarly situated counterparts. Moreover, the findings for race, age, and victimization were not conditioned on some other variable or a measurement issue. Considering the findings from this study, combined with those from other studies, it is reasonable to think that if police could improve relationships between those that fall into the dissatisfied categories, then they could increase compliance and citizens' willingness to report crimes. Police certainly need the community in this capacity, and increased cooperation could lead to a better ability to solve crimes (Braga & Dusseault, 2018Brunson & Wade, 2019Chaiken, Greenwood, & Petersilia, 1977Decker, 1996Regoeczi & Jarvis, 2013).

Second, there is consistent evidence that the effects of some theoretically relevant variables are conditional based on the presence of other covariates. Consistent with prior meta-analytic endeavors in research on policing literature (Bolger, 2015; Bolger & Lytle, 2018Lytle, 2014), model conceptualization and specification matters. The moderator analysis found differences among mean effect sizes based on the presence of covariates for gender, Hispanic ethnicity, SES, and perceptions of crime. It is essential for future studies that examine police satisfaction to include conditional variables in addition to those which tend to have statistically significant effects. Failure to include both could lead to misspecification of findings. Further, we recommend that police satisfaction literature should work to create more standardized measures as it is clear that there was a wide array of measurements for all variables involved.

In sum, as is the case with the police decision-making literature, a more precise measurement of the dependent variable and more inclusion of neighborhood variables and citizen encounter and experience variables must be employed in future studies. As nationally representative samples of communities and police departments are unlikely to be collected due to the cost and logistical challenges of such efforts, our understanding of what makes people more or less satisfied with policing services will be limited to localized samples unless researchers can agree on more unified measurement to facilitate more robust research synthesis efforts.

Unknowing, indifferent, or committed: Relations between age and assessments of the German population’s involvement and inaction during the time of National Socialism

Unknowing, indifferent, or committed: Relations between age and assessments of the German population’s involvement and inaction during the time of National Socialism. Michael Papendick  Jonas H. Rees  Andreas Zick. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, January 24 2021.

Rolf Degen's take: (20) Rolf Degen on Twitter: "Younger Germans are far more likely to believe that their compatriots knew about the crimes of the Nazis and let it happen than the older ones."

Abstract: We examine German participants’ assessment of the time of National Socialism. Especially for younger generations, shifts in the culture of remembrance may change their assessments of historical events. We argue that factors such as increased formal education about the topic and decreased personal contact with contemporary witnesses can weaken attributional biases (e.g., ingroup favouritism) in the assessment of the role of the German population during the time of National Socialism. We use data from a German representative sample (N = 1,000) and focus on the links between participants’ age and the estimated involvement of the German population under National Socialism as perpetrators, victims, helpers, and “bystanders,” as well as the agreement with explanations why the general population did not act against National Socialist crimes. Younger participants estimated the proportions of perpetrators and bystanders within the German population as higher and were less likely to agree that Germans did not know about the systematic killings. Older participants were more likely to agree with situational explanations for the population’s inaction (i.e., that Germans did not know or did not have an opportunity to act against the crimes). We find a positive relation between a more critical perspective on the involvement of the population in the past and participants’ feelings of responsibility in the present.


The main objective of the present study was to examine whether and to what extent contemporary Germans’ views on the German population during National Socialism are related to their age. We found that younger Germans reported differing points of contact with the time of National Socialism, as they reported having learned more about the topic in school and having met fewer individuals who have lived through the time of National Socialism themselves. We assumed these kinds of changes in the culture of remembrance would result in differing assessments of the role of the German population during National Socialism. In fact, younger Germans reported a more critical perspective on the role of society in Nazi Germany. They assumed a stronger involvement of the German population as perpetrators, and as bystanders who were aware of the regime’s crimes but did not intervene. When asked to explain the population’s inaction, younger Germans were more likely to reject the situational explanations that Germans during National Socialism “did not know,” did not realize the seriousness of the situation, or did not have any opportunity to act against the Nazis’ crimes. Those participants showing a more critical assessment of the past also reported an increased feeling of responsibility in the present.

Access to the Topic of National Socialism

Results show that the general extent of confrontation with the topic of National Socialism appears to be independent from Germans’ age. Younger Germans did not confront themselves with the topic less intensively than older Germans. Regarding specific ways of confrontation with the past, however, older Germans reported deriving less knowledge from institutional education and more from personal contact with contemporary witnesses. Younger participants, on the other hand, reported more facts‐based confrontation with the topic in school, and less personal points of contact. These results are further supported by additional data from the present project on the German culture of remembrance (Rees, Papendick, & Zick, 2019; Rees, Zick, et al., 2019). For example, younger Germans reported fewer conversations about the topic of National Socialism in their families as well as less knowledge about the role of their own ancestors during the time of National Socialism. These results substantiate the discussions about current shifts in the German culture of remembrance in which “established” ways of confrontation with the time of National Socialism slowly vanish while others evolve and become more influential for the assessment of the past. These changes, again, could be interpreted as a detachment from history and a loss of knowledge. Studies such as the one by Welzer et al. (2014), however, illustrate Germans’ frequently biased perspectives of their ancestors’ involvement in the Nazis’ crimes, the selective communication of stories of heroism and victimhood, and the selective suppression of stories of guilt and responsibility within German families. A further detachment from these biased family representations or individual narratives may increase the impact of more fact‐oriented confrontations with the topic (see also Rees et al., in press).

The German Population’s Involvement and Inaction During National Socialism

To test our prediction that these changes in access to the topic of National Socialism are not only negative but potentially enable a more critical perspective of the role of the German population, we tested for links between participants’ age and their assessments of the time of National Socialism. We hypothesized that younger participants would be more likely to choose accusing explanations for the population’s inaction and emphasize the German population’s awareness of and involvement in the perpetration of crimes, while older participants would more likely exonerate the general population and attribute their inaction to a lack of knowledge. Our results support these predictions, showing that younger participants more often denied the situational explanation that Germans “did not know”—not only when specifically asked whether the lack of knowledge was an appropriate explanation but also when asked to estimate the proportion of Germans who were aware of the regime’s systematic murdering. Older participants, in turn, were more likely to attribute Germans’ inaction to the situational and more exonerating explanations of a lack of knowledge or a lack of opportunities to act. These results are in line with those reported by Imhoff et al. (2017) and Doosje and Branscombe (2003), but extend them in demonstrating that ingroup favouring attributional biases regarding the explanation for the Holocaust may also hold for the specific group of the bystanders to the Nazi crimes, and that differences in attributional patterns are not only found between national groups but also between different generations within German society.

However, we also found deviations from our assumptions and the results reported in previous studies. First, and in contrast to the results reported by Imhoff et al. (2017) and Doosje and Branscombe (2003), we found that within our overall sample, the dispositional explanation that the German population during National Socialism did not intervene because they shared the views of the Nazi regime was affirmed more often than the situational explanation of a population that was inactive due to a lack of knowledge. While counterintuitive at first, we argue that this deviation can be explained by the situational attribution we presented (“They did not know about the murders”). Compared to the more complex situational explanation of “the bad economic conditions and the high unemployment rate” presented by Imhoff et al. (2017, p. 914) the situational explanation of a lack of awareness of the crimes among the German population stands in clear contrast to historical knowledge. Therefore, it is comprehensible that participants in our study were less likely to affirm the situational explanation. This result supports our hypothesis that an explicit denial of the German population’s knowledge of the Nazi regime’s atrocities can be interpreted as an active exoneration of the German population. Additionally, the study by Imhoff and colleagues focused on attributions of the causes of the Holocaust while the present study examined explanations for the lack of resistance within the bystanding German population, and therefore addresses a different aspect of explaining National Socialism. The second result in contrast to our expectations is the lack of age differences in the estimation of helpers among the German population. As we expected younger Germans to report a generally more critical and accusing assessment of the past, we assumed that this critical assessment would be expressed in a lower estimation of helpers among the German population as well. A potential explanation for this result may be a differing definition of the particular group of helpers, depending on participants’ age. If younger Germans have a different concept of “helping potential victims” in mind, they may come to a different conclusion about the proportion of helpers among the German population. More specifically, potential definitions for acts of helping during National Socialism may range from small acts of support in everyday life (e.g., giving food) to more serious interventions (e.g., explicitly saving someone’s life or taking severe personal risks to support someone). Another explanation would be that younger Germans are generally more aware of the population’s involvement in particular roles, as perpetrators or bystanders, but know less about acts of help and support for the victim groups of National Socialism. Future research should further elaborate on how younger Germans themselves define the groups of perpetrators, victims, helpers, and bystanders, and whether these definitions differ from those of older Germans.

In sum, our results corroborate the assumption of generational differences within German society not only with regard to access to the topic of National Socialism, reinforcing discussions about shifts in the German culture of remembrance (Cornelißen, 2015; Knigge, 2010; Körber Foundation, 2017), but also with regard to assessments of the societal circumstances of National Socialism and the Holocaust. These results, especially younger participants’ higher estimations of knowledge among the German population during the Nazi era, may be regarded as the result of more facts‐based confrontations with the topic of National Socialism. Our exploratory analyses show that those participants who reported a more critical perspective on the German population during National Socialism also reported more courageous attitudes with regard to German society today. One obvious interpretation of these results would be to conclude that these participants share a more (self‐) critical perspective on societal issues, attributing responsibility not only to external factors or actors, but hold the society, including themselves, accountable. Following this interpretation, this attribution of responsibilities may at least partially derive from the confrontation with the topic of National Socialism in general or with the bystanding behaviour of the population during National Socialism in particular. Yet, deducing some kind of historical learning or historical consciousness from the present data would be a clear exaggeration and overinterpretation.

Limitations and Future Directions

Although the present study contributes to a better understanding of contemporary Germans’ perspectives on the time of National Socialism and generational differences in these perspectives, a number of methodological restrictions confine potential inferences and should be considered in future research. One of our assumptions is a potentially positive consequence of changes within the German culture of remembrance, resulting in a less biased perspective on the German population in the time of National Socialism. While the theoretical deduction from social identity theory, explaining this effect with the concept of ingroup favouritism, is reasonable and the results support our hypothesis, the extent of participants’ identification with the German population during National Socialism was not explicitly measured. The same applies to the assessment of participants’ estimations of Germans’ involvement in the National Socialists’ crimes and the interpretation of specific estimations (e.g., higher estimations of the percentages of perpetrators and bystanders) representing a more accusing perspective on the role of the German population. The different explanations for the population’s inaction we examined and the correlations between these explanations and participants’ estimations of the population’s involvement reinforce our interpretation that specific estimations of the German population’s involvement represent more critical assessments of the past. The assessment and evaluation of the political, economic, and societal circumstances of National Socialism, however, is a complex question that can hardly be assessed with few quantitative items. Future research might wish to assess participants’ understanding of the conditions of National Socialism and the Holocaust in a more differentiated manner and also include questions on whether participants perceive direct or indirect relations between the past and the present. While the present study included estimations of the German population’s involvement to assess participants’ impression of civil society during the time of National Socialism, more explicit questions are needed to draw a full image of how Germans today perceive and explain the time of National Socialism. This assessment should further take into account the developments during and prior to the time span from 1933 to 1945. Participants’ answers to questions regarding “the time of National Socialism” will most likely be influenced by the specific point in time that is invoked. Answers to questions referring to the early years of National Socialism will differ from those referring to the years of the Holocaust. Qualitative studies on the topic would enable assessments of individuals’ explicit understanding of National Socialism and of how far they regard their personal confrontation with the time of National Socialism as relevant for their attitudes toward present‐day issues. Finally, the potential causal relationships we discuss in the present paper (e.g., the assumption that a confrontation with historical sources representing the German population’s bystanding behaviour promotes more critical perspectives on the role of the German population in general) need to be tested experimentally to understand how far and under which conditions contemporary Germans may draw inferences from a confrontation with National Socialism. These studies should also take into account additional factors that may influence contemporary Germans’ assessment of the past, such as their national identification with Germany.