Death penalty sentiment in the United States


Pro-death penalty sentiment, at its all-time low in 1966 at 42% of the country's adult population, steadily rose to 71% in 1986. This average percentage varies widely for various subgroups of the population-as widely as between 43 and 93% at the extremes: political leanings, ethnic background, sex, and economic status are the main determinants. Death penalty sentiments are not of uniform strength: about one-third of the pro-death penalty population might give up their position if the alternative were life without parole and if they were convinced that the death penalty is not a deterrent. In the main, death penalty sentiment is not determined by utilitarian considerations but by moralistic ones, which in turn are part of the liberal-conservative dividing lines.

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Zeisel, H., Gallup, A.M. Death penalty sentiment in the United States. J Quant Criminol 5, 285–296 (1989).

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Key words

  • polls
  • death penalty sentiment
  • strength of sentiment
  • utilitarian
  • moralistic