Raising Considerations: Public Opinion and the Fair Application of the Death Penalty

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Objectives. A major justification for capital punishment is its perceived public support, yet common measures of public opinion do not capture the complexity of death penalty attitudes. This research, first, examines the stability of attitudes regarding the fair application of the death penalty when those attitudes are expressed within the context of an enlarged pool of considerations about its administration and, second, evaluates the directional effect of the considerations on those attitudes. Methods. Data from a national telephone survey that capture the complexity of these attitudes are analyzed using ordered probit estimation. Results. These results indicate substantial instability in attitudes regarding the fair application of capital punishment given the context of more pertinent considerations. Furthermore, within this context respondents tend to indicate that the death penalty is less fairly applied. Conclusion. The justification for capital punishment may rest on oversimplified conceptions of attitudes toward the death penalty and its application.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)753-770
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Science Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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