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Community sentencing: Public Perceptions and Attitudes - Summary Research Report

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CHAPTER TWO METHODOLOGY AND SAMPLE

METHODOLOGY

A qualitative method was identified as the most appropriate approach in order to meet the research objectives. In particular, focus groups were felt to provide the most fitting approach, offering the key advantage of allowing respondents to generate and discuss spontaneous ideas, suggestions and opinions, revealing similarities and differences of opinions and attitudes across the group.

The research programme comprised six focus groups among the general public. The specific audiences included in the research are discussed below.

SAMPLE

All groups were mixed gender, with a BC1:C2D split across the groups. Fieldwork was spread across three locations, with two groups per location, in order to ensure the sample was geographically representative to some extent. An urban / rural split was incorporated into the sample design, which included Edinburgh, Glasgow and the Borders. For the older groups (25-55) a mix of those with and without children at home was recruited.

Those who had direct experience of the CJS were excluded on the grounds that these individuals were likely to have an unrepresentative level of knowledge about the CJS and hence could skew results and interfere with group dynamics. These included:

  • any who had been convicted of a criminal offence (with the exception of minor driving offences)
  • young offenders
  • victims of serious crime (cases which went to court)
  • those with close family members / friends who had been through the criminal justice system
  • those working in any related occupations
  • those studying law, social studies or politics.

A split in terms of political party allegiance was also incorporated into each group to avoid any potential skew in opinion based on political beliefs.

The sample breakdown for the research is shown below.

Group No.

Age

Gender

SEG

Location

1.

18-24

Mixed

BC1

Edinburgh

2.

25-39

Mixed

C2D

Glasgow

3.

40-55

Mixed

BC1

Edinburgh

4.

18-24

Mixed

C2D

Glasgow

5.

25-39

Mixed

BC1

Borders

6.

40-55

Mixed

C2D

Borders

Fieldwork was conducted between 25 th and 30 th July 2007.