Race and Police Brutality: The Importance of Media Framing

Kim Fridkin, Amanda Wintersieck, Jillian Courey, Joshua Thompson


This article explores how the framing of a violent confrontation between a White police officer and an African American woman affects people’s perceptions of the incident. First, we conduct a content analysis of every news article published about the encounter over a three-month period. We use the content analysis to identify the major frames employed by the news media when reporting the event. We find that the news media relied on three frames: police brutality, law and order, and race. We embed these frames into an original experiment to determine how the alternative frames affect citizens’ attitudes and perceptions of the incident. Exposure to the law and order frame and the police brutality frame significantly influences support for the White police officer and African American woman. Finally, alterations in the framing of the confrontation influence people’s beliefs about the problem of racism in law enforcement.


race framing, police brutality, media effects

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