This study examines the differences in attitudes toward capital punishment among the black and white populations of the United States. I feel that black's are more inclined to oppose the death penalty than are whites. Likewise, white's are more prone to favor the death penalty than are blacks. The review of literature contains studies that discuss the death penalty and variables that can contribute to a person's belief toward such a punishment. Each of the studies examines one of more possible reasons as to why there exists such a gap in attitudes among the American population, most specifically between blacks and whites. These studies suggest that race is not the only factor in determining an individual's attitude. Instead, the combination of race, education, knowledge of the death penalty, income, the fear of victimization, sex, myths toward aggression, the belief that a more severe crime deserves a more severe punishment, and religion, all account for a persons' position on such an issue. Therefore I also look into some of these variables mentioned. I feel that the higher income one earns, the more likely he/she will be to favor the death penalty, the more education one has, the more likely he/she will be to oppose such an act, religion and the religiosity (attendance of church and strength in faith) one is, the more likely he/she will be to oppose it, males are more likely to favor the death penalty than are females, and finally, the more aggressive one is, the more likely that he/she will be to favor capital punishment. I also feel that the more one has been victimized, the more lively he/she will be to favor such a punishment. This study also includes theories that can explain why these differences occur: structural functionalism theory, conflict theory, and the internal colonial model of race relations. The methods discussed in the study are retrieved from the already existing data obtained by NORC (National Opinion Research Center). Although I do not examine all the variables mentioned in the literature chapter, the results chapter displays my findings for the variables I was able to test. Finally the discussion chapter analyzes these findings and compares them with the theories presented and previous studies conducted. My results section suggests that blacks do in fact oppose the death penalty more so than do whites. I also found that Protestants favored capital punishment slightly more so than did Catholic's. However, Protestants an Catholics generally favored the death penalty much more than Jew's, those who claimed to be non-religious and those who were neither Catholic or Protestant. Those who attended religious service twice a year or less were more likely to favor capital punishment than those who attended more frequently. Likewise, those claiming not to have a strong faith, favored the death penalty more so than those who claimed to have a strong faith. Victimization had a small significance in people's attitudes; those who feared victimization were slightly less likely to support capital punishment those who did not. I also found that males supported its use more than did females and those who had less than a high school degree supported capital punishment far more than did those with graduate degree's. Finally, those who were more aggressive tended to show support for capital punishment more so than those who were not.


Hurst, Charles


Sociology and Anthropology

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis

Available for download on Thursday, January 01, 2150

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© Copyright 1995 P. Butler