Does social media promote the public’s perception of the police: Survey results on trust cultivation

AbstractPolice departments use social media to inform the local community. Additionally, police share self-promotional information to enhance the public’s perception of law enforcement. Research using cultivation theory shows that reliance on a media source such as television cultivates viewer perceptions of a subject. We apply cultivation theory to this interactive medium to test whether viewing and responding to social media messages increases followers’ satisfaction with the police. Surveys administered online to the followers of four police departments show that followers who view and respond to police posts more frequently are also inclined to be more satisfied with the police. Minorities are less satisfied with police than whites, but not significantly so. Finally, followers who like (dislike) police self-promotion are more (less) satisfied with police. The findings provide partial support for applying cultivation theory to the social media setting and suggest that police use of social media can help achieve community policing goals.

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