First Advisor

Christopher Shortell

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Political Science


Political Science




Bias crime legislation, Hate crime laws, Media crime coverage, Hate crimes -- United States, Civil rights -- United States -- Criminal provisions, Mass media and crime -- United States



Physical Description

1 online resource (iv, 95 p.) : col. ill.


State level bias crime legislation was passed throughout much of the United States over the last three decades. Beyond their prosecutorial or instrumental application, bias or hate crime laws serve an expressive or messaging function. This function is meant to promote societal cohesion through the rejection of hateful ideologies, as well as signal to attacked or marginalized members of communities that the government is directly addressing the effects of bias crime. As the number of reported hate crimes in the United States remains essentially level, it is of importance to assess how well the expressive function is performing. Following a background on the development, debate, and variation of bias or hate crime law, this project focuses on a content analysis of prominent state level media with the expectation that the expressive success of laws can be detected in bias crime coverage. It is found that bias crime related stories were featured with greater regularity in the states of Washington and Minnesota, which have passed extensive bias crime legislation. Bias crime related stories were far less prominent in South Carolina, which has no bias crime laws. The State of Wyoming, another state with no bias crime laws, displayed a surprisingly large amount of coverage, primarily as a result of the high-profile murder of Matthew Shepard in 1998.


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Hatfield School of Government. Division of Political Science

Persistent Identifier