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NCJ Number: 78163 Add to Shopping cart Find in a Library
Title: Public Opinion and Capital Punishment - A Close Examination of the Views of Abolitionists and Retentionists
Author(s): P C Ellsworth; L Ross
Date Published: Unknown
Page Count: 83
Sponsoring Agency: National Institute of Justice/
Rockville, MD 20849
Sale Source: National Institute of Justice/
NCJRS paper reproduction
Box 6000, Dept F
Rockville, MD 20849
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Attitudes toward capital punishment were surveyed in an attempt to understand the attitudes themselves -- their bases, function, and meaning for the people who hold them. Also explored were the general psychology of attitudes and beliefs and residents similarities and differences between attitudes toward capital punishment and those on other public policy matters.
Abstract: Following a review of the legal context for the attitude and the arguments concerning the relevance of public opinion for the definition of cruel and unusual punishment, the paper presents the research results. In 1974, 500 adult resident of 4 municipalities in the San Franciso Bay area were surveyed about their attitudes toward the death penalty. Results of the survey indicate that 58.8 percent of the respondents favored capital punishment, 30.8 percent were opposed, and 10.4 percent were undecided. The results from the 1973 nationwide Harris poll were almost identical to theses results. After exploring reasons for these attitudes and their psychological implications, the report concludes that public opinion polls that simply ask people whether or not they favor capital punishment are ineffective measures of public opinion. Because the Supreme Court is considering numerous alternatives to the capital punishment law, it will not find the simple opinion polls indicative of the amount of support for all alternatives defined as acceptable by the Court. Opinion poll data, however, can provide useful evidence on the nature and bases of attitudes toward capital punishment, provided that more specific questions are asked. Endnotes, about 35 references, a list of cases cited, and the survey instrument and results are appended.
Index Term(s): Capital punishment; Cruel and unusual punishment; Deterrence; Judicial decisions; Public Attitudes/Opinion; US Supreme Court
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