Mercyhurst Poll shows parents of bullies should be held accountable

Seventy percent of Pennsylvanians believe that cyber bullying makes today’s bullying “more harmful” than bullying in the past and that more needs to be done to prevent it, according to results of a new poll by the Mercyhurst Center for Applied Politics (MCAP).

The Mercyhurst Poll surveyed 426 residents across the state in a random sampling taken Sept. 19 to Oct. 7, and addressed four major themes: Environment & Marcellus Shale, Economics & Poverty, Bullying and Youthful Offenders & the Juvenile Justice System. This data summarizes the latter two and is based on a 95 percent probability that results are within a margin of error of +/- 4.75 percent.

In addition to recognizing the increasingly harmful problem of cyber bullying, Pennsylvanians (63 percent) point the finger at parents of cyber bullies as those most responsible for its prevention. A majority (74 percent) goes so far as to say that if cyber bullying leads to serious harm, parents of the bully should be held legally responsible for their child’s actions.

In terms of the juvenile justice system, the poll found that a majority of Pennsylvanians (66 percent) believes the criminal justice system is “fair” or “somewhat fair;” however, roughly a majority (51 percent) believes that courts in Pennsylvania do not deal “harshly enough” with criminals.

Pennsylvanians are split on whether juvenile offenders (aged 14-17) should be “treated as adults” with 49 percent saying “yes” and 34 percent saying they should have “more lenient treatment” and another 14 percent saying it “depends” on the circumstances.

A clear majority of Pennsylvanians (65 percent) either strongly agrees or somewhat agrees that “punishing juvenile offenders is the only way to stop them from engaging in more crimes in the future.” However, 88 percent of the respondents said that “rehabilitation programs should be available even for juvenile offenders who have been involved in a lot of crime.”

Pennsylvanians are evenly divided (49 percent agree, 50 percent disagree) that “sending young offenders to jail will stop them from committing crimes.” At the same time, a very strong majority (94 percent) believes that the best way to rehabilitate juvenile offenders is to try to help them “change their values” and deal with “emotional problems.”

The Mercyhurst Poll represents the first statewide poll for the new Mercyhurst Center for Applied Politics, now in its second year. MCAP is the only independent, nonpartisan research organization in northwest Pennsylvania that aims to regularly conduct public opinion polls on issues of regional, state and national concern. Dr. Joseph Morris is director; Dr. Rolfe Peterson is associate director and methodologist.

To learn more, visit the MCAP website, or call Morris at 824-2154.
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