Date of Award

Summer 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Chattopadhyay, Sumana

Second Advisor

Ugland, Erik

Third Advisor

Wolburg, Joyce


Police use of force has become a common phrase in the current United States society, especially in the context of law enforcement encounters with Black men. However, even with extensive media coverage of protests and incidents between police and Blacks, not much is known about peoples’ willingness to speak out about the topic. Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann’s spiral of silence theory, which states that peoples’ perceptions of others and media exposure is largely responsible for determining an individual’s willingness to speak, is uniquely positioned to examine this topic. This study utilized a Qualtrics panel of 905 participants and a questionnaire to examine the willingness of participants to speak with others about police use of force. ANOVA results showed that previous negative interactions with police officers, age, race, income, gender, taking a civics class, income, political affiliation and working for a newspaper all affect willingness to speak. Additional regression analyses showed that communication apprehension (CA) and diversity exposure both were large, influencing factors when it comes to willingness to speak. Several other variables were also found to be significant, although not to the same extent. Results supported Noelle-Neumann’s theory that perceptions play a role in willingness to speak; however, media exposure was less influential than expected. Implications, recommendations and future research angles are discussed.