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Increasing Support for Alcohol-Control Enforcement Through News Coverage of Alcohol's Role in Injuries and Crime

Michael D. Slater, Andrew F. Hayes, Catherine E. Goodall, David R. Ewoldsen

Objective: Prior research has shown that the proportion of news stories about violent crimes, car crashes, and other unintended injuries that mention the possible contributing role of alcohol is far lower than the actual proportion of alcohol-related crimes and unintended injuries. An experiment was conducted to test the hypothesis that inclusion of such mention can increase concern about alcohol risks and support for alcohol-control measures, which have elsewhere been shown to decrease alcohol-related problems in community settings. Methodologically, we provide a model for experiments permitting generalization across randomly selected message stimuli. Method: Sixty randomly selected local news stories on violent crime, motor vehicle crashes, and other unintended injuries from newspapers throughout the United States were manipulated into versions including or not including alcohol as a causative factor. Participants (n = 785) were drawn from a national online research panel representative of the U.S. population; 66% of panel members contacted agreed to participate. Data were analyzed using mixed-effect, multilevel models to permit generalization across message and participant variability. Results: Mention of alcohol in news stories increased support for enforcement of alcohol-control laws. Conclusions: Efforts to increase mention of alcohol as a causative factor in news reports of violent crime and unintended injury have the potential to increase public support for alcohol-control policies. (J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs, 73, 311315, 2012)