Free and Open to the Public
Why do civilians affected by violence support vigilante groups? The speakers argue that outrage after violence increases the demand for punitiveness, even at the expense of the rule of law. They test our theory using three observational and experimental studies using data from an original survey of 1,200 individuals in Western Mexico, a region affected by narco trafficking and vigilante violence. They find first that individuals exposed to more violence are angrier and more supportive of punitive criminal justice, including policies that enable vigilantes. Second, both experiments show that citizens are more supportive of harsh punishments, and place less value on their legality, for morally outrageous crimes. Third, the innocence of a crime’s victim has a stronger effect on anger and punitiveness than the severity of its violence. The findings suggest that emotional reactions to violence can lead to cycles of retribution that undermine the rule of law.
Omar Garcia-Ponce (PhD, Politics, New York University) is an assistant professor of political science at UC Davis. His research focuses broadly on the political economy of conflict and development, with an emphasis on topics related to both criminal and political violence, and a regional expertise in Latin America. His work has been published in the American Political Science Review, Electoral Studies, and the Journal of the European Economic Association.