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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 78561 Find in a Library
Title: Public Support for the Death Penalty
Journal: Criminal Justice Review  Volume:5  Issue:1  Dated:(Spring 1980)  Pages:55-66
Author(s): R Lotz; R M Regoli
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 12
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Findings are reported from a study that examined possible explanations for increasing public support for the death penalty.
Abstract: Based on a literature review, three models of explanations for capital-punishment support were identified: the rational, the systems, and the traditional values models. The rational model traces public support for capital punishment to fear of crime, perceptions of increasing crime rates, a belief in the efficacy of punishment as a crime deterrent, and a willingness to use punishment as a response to criminality. The systems explanation views support for capital punishment as a pro-police posture that is frustrated with the complex and seemingly ineffective court efforts to deal with criminals with less severe sentences. The traditional values explanation of capital-punishment support views such support as based in a strong commitment to traditional behavioral values which calls for severe sanctions against those who violate such values. Data for testing these explanatory models were derived from survey questionnaire responses of 1,149 of 1,872 persons (63 percent response rate), via a 4-wave mail survey. The sample was drawn from all available telephone directories in Washington State; both adult males and females were surveyed. Findings showed minimal support for the rational and systems models, while providing stronger support for the traditional values explanation. The traditional values model was subjected to a more systematic analysis by focusing on three of its salient dimensions: sexual restraint, orderliness, and discipline. Policy implications were addressed, with particular emphasis on recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Tabular data are provided, and 35 references and 1 footnote are listed. (Author abstract modified)
Index Term(s): Capital punishment; Judicial decisions; Public Attitudes/Opinion; Surveys; US Supreme Court
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