Selected Predictors of Attitudes For and Against Capital Punishment in the United States

James T. Brown, The College of Wooster


This thesis is an examination of public attitudes toward capital punishment which investigates selected predictors--age, race, sex, religion, education, income, residence location, and opinion on the seriousness of the crime problem--contributing to an individual's attitude towards capital punishment. This examination was done utilizing the 1989 NORC edition of the GSS which is a national opinion research survey attaining the opinions of the public on a number of issues including capital punishment. The data from the NORC was examined through frequency distributions and crosstabs which allowed the relationship between each predictor and capital punishment to be reviewed. With the expectation that sex and race were significant predictors of capital punishment, each crosstab was repeated controlling for each of these. The results revealed that education, income, race, sex, and opinion on the seriousness of the crime problem are adequate predictors of opinion towards capital punishment. The significance of education, race, sex, and opinion on the seriousness of the crime problem were attributed to the whites in the sample population. Income was attributed to the males in the sample. The findings in the analysis showed that there was not a significant enough relationship between age, religion, and residence location to justify them as adequate predictors of capital punishment. Since there was an overrepresentation of whites in the sample, future research is suggested focusing upon attaining a representative sample of the U.S. population. In addition, further research is suggested aimed at attaining the basis of support for capital punishment professed by the overwhelming majority of the public. As a result, more research in these areas is needed in order to strengthen or disprove the findings of this analysis of opinion towards capital punishment.


© Copyright 1990 James T. Brown