News Reports of Crimes Related to Alcohol Boost Support For Alcohol Laws

The use of alcohol involves many risks, including the risk of injury and a heightened willingness to participate in dangerous behaviors. While many vehicular accidents and injuries are related to alcohol, studies have shown that many news sources omit the involvement of alcohol in injury and crime reports. A new study examines the effects of including information about alcohol in news reports and how that impacts a person’s opinion about enforcing alcohol laws. The study, conducted by researchers at Ohio State University, showed that when an article is read linking alcohol to violent crime or an accident, the reader is more likely to support alcohol laws. In the study, researchers asked participants to read real news reports that discussed crimes of a violent nature and accidental injuries. The articles were edited so that half of the participants received reports that mentioned the role of alcohol, while half were edited to remove the mention of alcohol. When participants read articles that included information about the role of alcohol, they were more likely to support the enforcement of alcohol laws related to serving intoxicated individuals, selling alcohol to underage drinkers and open container laws when compared to those who read articles that did not mention the role of alcohol in a crime or accident. The same researchers who conducted this study previously researched the rate at which news sources include relevant information about the role of alcohol in a crime or accident. They found that less than one-fourth of newspaper reports and one-tenth of television news reports included information about the role of alcohol in an event. Michael Slater is the co-author of the study and is a professor of communication at Ohio State University. He explains that the exclusion of this information in news reporting may be affecting public health. If people were more aware of the role of alcohol in crime and accidents, they may demand a higher level of enforcement. Joining Slater in the research was Andrew Hayes, associate professor and David Edwoldsen, professor, at the School of Communication at Ohio State and Catherine Goodall from Kent State University. To examine the effects of the news reports, the researchers recruited 789 adults to read one of 60 local newspaper stories that reported on a violent crime, car accident or other type of injury. The participants were told that they were evaluating the articles for clarity and other factors and were asked to answer a series of questions related to the article, including being asked to rate their level of support for liquor laws. Those who read articles including information about the role of alcohol showed more support for alcohol laws than those who read articles that did not include information about alcohol involvement. The results were the same whether the participants read about injuries or crimes.

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