Public Perceptions: How Religiosity Predicts Attitudes and Social Distance Towards Sex Offenders



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Convicted sex offenders are amongst the most stigmatized individuals in society who experience individual and structural discrimination. Research regarding the public perceptions of sex offender treatment is important because public attitudes and responses to sex offenders can have a large impact on successful re-entry opportunities for sex offenders. Successful re-entry can play a large part in sex offender recidivism rates. Studies have indicated that many factors play a role in sex offender stigma such as age, political orientation, and interpersonal contact; however, there is a lack of literature regarding how religious orientation relates to sex offender stigma. Research has shown that differences in religiosity (i.e. intrinsic/extrinsic, quest) relate to different levels of prejudice when looking at race and sexuality. Participants will answer a self-report survey that contains intrinsic, extrinsic and quest religiosity measures, a disgust sensitivity measure, openness to experience measure, a Community Attitudes Toward Sex Offenders measure and a social distance measure along with a vignette of a specific sex offender. We hypothesize that extrinsic religiosity will be positively associated with higher levels of stigma towards sex offenders. We also predict the association between intrinsic religiosity and stigma towards sex offenders will be significantly weaker than the association between extrinsic religiosity and stigma towards sex offenders. Hypotheses regarding the association between quest religiosity and stigma towards sex offenders will be exploratory. Hypotheses regarding the differences between general behavioral stigma and specific behavioral stigma will be exploratory. We also hypothesize that disgust will moderate the association between religiosity and stigma, such that as disgust increases, the association between both intrinsic and extrinsic religiosity and sex offender stigma will become more positive. It is important to research how religiosity predicts sex offender stigma because this information can be used to intervene in religious communities and create a foundation for future research regarding factors that influence stigma from probation officers and mental health professionals that have sex offender clients.



Sex offender, Stigma, Social distance, Religiosity, Intrinsic, Extrinsic, Quest