As reported on Deadline: Hollywood, a recent study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center tracked Americans’ fear of crime as it related to violence portrayed on prime-time, broadcast TV from the early 1970s through 2010.
The study found that people’s attitudes toward crime reflected the portrayal of violent crime on TV drama, not the actual crime rate. As TV violence has become more intense since the 1990s, the public’s fear of violent crime has increased – even though the actual crime rate has gone down, according to the FBI.
The study suggests that graphic portrayals of violent crime causes viewers to become emotionally involved in the imagined world of the TV drama. People then respond emotionally to the world which TV shows them (and in which they have become emotionally involved), and not in reality, of which they may be unaware or with which they may have less emotional involvement. In fact, for every additional act or sequence of violence on a TV show, a poll respondent’s fear of walking alone at night in their neighborhood increased by one percentage point.
In short, TV shows can affect how safe the public feels. This is yet more proof that what people see on TV DOES influence their attitudes…even as the networks claim that what people see on TV doesn’t influence thoughts or behavior.