The trend towards harsher punishment of offenders, usually termed the ‘new punitiveness’, is often explained as a response to deepening social and economic uncertainty. One important area that criminal policy research has long dealt with is public attitudes to punishment. Statements that the public want more severe punishments for those who break the law are often used to justify introducing measures to make the criminal justice system harsher. There are, however, different ways to measure public opinion on criminal sentencing. While general attitudinal questions indicate the public to be very punitive in outlook, when they have to evaluate specific cases the results are slightly more positive. Drawing on data from the European Social Survey, the article aims to describe the current level of punitiveness in the Czech Republic, as measured by both above-mentioned indicators, and to assess whether the respondents’ answers to such indicators are influenced by the same factors. Data show that Czechs tend to have relatively strong punitive attitudes. However, past studies have shown that people are less punitively inclined when they are judging a specific case. Moreover, regression analysis suggests that, rather than individual punitive sentiments, the general measure of punitiveness reflects cognitive and emotional reactions of a different nature (e.g. the quality of work of the court system), which means that the information on public attitudes it produces could be misleading.