Sex, Drugs and Public Hangings
A series by Spiralbound.net on social deviance and punishment in the United States and Europe
Going into this study, it was my expectation that That non deviant citizens of other Western, industrialized countries would take on more personal responsibility for deviants, and prove more willing to make accommodations for them than Americans. Given this, Americans would, without exception, be more likely than Europeans to label deviant any person addressed by the five social policies in my survey. This is to say that whether a person is on death row for homicide, or poverty stricken and in need of shelter, food, clothing, medical attention or treatment for drug addiction, that person would acquire a label of deviance more quickly in the United States than in Europe.
In two ways, this turned out to be the case. As expected, when it came to sentencing a person to death Americans were decidedly more likely to agree, than Europeans, effectively applying the label of criminal with indelible ink. This label cannot be removed, since the person is to be executed, which tells us that, while not given out lightly, it is applied by Americans with extreme confidence.
Similarly, Americans seem more reluctant than Europeans to remove the label of drug user. This is not to suggest that they to not favor programs designed to help in addiction recovery (55% in fact believed America should have such a nationally funded policy), but to note that far more (76%) of Europeans agreed with this policy and were less likely to be skeptical about the addict’s actual motivation to recover.
The results become more ambiguous however when it comes to questions about nationalized health care and welfare. America and Europe ran pretty much dead even in the statistics here, which, at least initially, suggests that being poor and in need of health care is not thought of as particularly deviant in either culture. Like drug addiction, however, there does seem to be more of a tendency amongst Americans to look at these program’s beneficiaries with distrust, and thus less societal responsibility is accepted by the American individual. This again suggests a willingness but strong reluctance amongst Americans to remove a deviant label.
Finally, there is the question that broke all the rules. Given the fact that United States tends to be more conservative sexually than many European nations, I would have thought, that if anything was to be labeled more deviant in the United States it would be sexuality. Perhaps this is the case, and a willingness to provide nationally funded birth control is not a valid measurement, or perhaps I simply had it wrong. Whatever the case, it would appear, since more Americans than Europeans favor such a program, that sexuality is more likely to receive a deviant label in Europe.
Ultimately, while it does seem that these findings support my original hypothesis, they do so in a slightly different way than I had anticipated. It appears that neither culture is decidedly more or less likely to apply a label of deviance to the acts in question, but rather that Europeans tend to be more willing than Americans to remove a deviant label.
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