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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 158334 Find in a Library
Title: New Look at Public Opinion on Capital Punishment: What Citizens and Legislators Prefer
Journal: American Journal of Criminal Law  Volume:22  Issue:1  Dated:(Fall 1994)  Pages:77-150
Author(s): W J Bowers; M Vandiver; P H Dugan
Date Published: 1995
Page Count: 74
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This analysis critically reviews data interpreted as establishing strong public support for capital punishment and presents data from recent polls revealing that as many as half of the people are reluctant supporters who accept the death penalty but would prefer an alternative.
Abstract: The standard polling question (SPQ) asks whether or not people favor the death penalty, not whether they think it is the best or most appropriate punishment for convicted murderers. When people are presented with an alternative to the death penalty that incorporates both lengthy imprisonment and restitution to murder victims' families and are then asked whether they would prefer the death penalty to such an alternative, they consistently choose the alternative. In effect, both pollsters and politicians have mistaken the public's acceptance of the death penalty as a preference for it and have missed the indications that the public actually prefers an alternative. The responses to the SPQ indicate the public's desire for harsh punishment and that people will accept capital punishment unless or until they can have an alternative they want more. This implies that advocacy for such an alternative may have a pivotal role in the struggle over capital punishment in the United States. Tables, figures, footnotes, and appended table
Main Term(s): Corrections policies
Index Term(s): Capital punishment; Public Opinion of Corrections
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