Education and Attitudes toward Interpersonal and State-Sanctioned Violence
by Landon Schnabel, Indiana University, Bloomington
People with more education are typically more liberal than those with less education. This link between education and liberal attitudes is among the most consistent findings in public opinion research, and researchers have set out various explanations for how education shapes people’s values. Although these explanations differ from one another, they would all suggest that people with more education would be more opposed to violence regardless of who is committing the violence. This study, however, suggests that education may socialize people into establishment values and interests that legitimate state violence. Using nationally-representative data from multiple sources, this study shows that Americans with more education are less likely to say that interpersonal violence—against women, children, and other individuals—can be justifiable. However, they are more likely to say that state-sanctioned violence—war and police violence—can be justifiable. The study concludes that American education socializes people to establishment culture, identity, and interests that legitimate state-sanctioned violence like police brutality and war.