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Is perception of the mainstream legal system homogeneous across ethnic groups?

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Author(s): Estefanía Estévez | Marina Rachitskiy | Carla Rodríguez

Journal: European Journal of Psychology Applied to Legal Context
ISSN 1889-1861

Volume: 5;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 155;
Date: 2013;

Keywords: Ethnicity | Procedural justice | Distributive justice | Legitimacy | Legal system

ABSTRACT
There is a great social debate regarding possible legal privileges favouring some ethnic groups over othersin a particular society. This fact may negatively influence citizens’ perceptions about fairness and legitimacyof the mainstream legal system and, thus, compliance with established social norms. The main purpose ofthe present study was to analyse the perception of the mainstream legal system in citizens belonging todifferent ethnic groups. In particular, this work had two objectives. First, the purpose was to explore interethnicperceptions of legal authorities and the justice system by examining the following variables:procedural justice, distributive justice, legitimacy of the legal system, contact with police, and reasons forobeying the law. A second objective was to test the predictive power of perceived procedural justice,distributive justice, and contact with police in the subsequent perception of legitimacy across the differentethnic groups. The sample was composed of 351 participants, who were split into two groups: White-Europeans (76.4%) and ethnic minorities (23.6%). Results revealed ethnic group differences in all studyvariables, showing ethnic minorities a more general negative attitude towards the legal system in terms ofprocedural justice, distributive justice and legitimacy conceded to the legal system, in comparison with themajority group. Moreover, legitimacy conceded to legal authorities was predicted by procedural justice, butnot by distributive justice neither contact with police, in both groups. Practical and policy implications arediscussed based on the importance of citizens’ perceptions about the legal authorities in order to legitimatethe mainstream legal system.
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