Conclusions About Hard Abstract Supporters of the Death Penalty

People enacting the role of Hard Abstract Supporters of the death penalty fall somewhere in between Soft Abstract Supporters and Executioners. As with Abolitionists and Soft Abstract Supporters, people classified as Hard Abstract Supporters (by virtue of their intended action) were not consistently pro-death penalty. When half the people in the study were asked a biased version of the opinion question, 18% said they opposed the death penalty. When the other half were asked the unbiased question, 39% said they favored life in prison over the death penalty.

Hard Abstract Supporters heavily subscribe to the pro-death penalty belief system that death is the only just punishment for murder, that executions are distasteful but necessary, and that they have no moral concerns about the death penalty. Regarding the death penalty as unfair to the poor, persons of color, and the innocent, all three pro-death penalty groups posted the same level of agreement (43%). Regarding the death penalty as immoral, fewer than 20% of all pro-death penalty groups agreed.

Regarding disdain for public executions, about three-quarters of Hard Abstract Supporters agreed. This agreement was lower than that of Abolitionists and Soft Abstract Supporters but much higher than the disdain among Executioners. Somewhat consistent with their willingness to witness the execution of the person they convicted, this group is much more accepting of public executions (vicarious sadism) before large crowds and live televised executions—when compared to Abolitionists and especially Soft Abstract Supporters. However, the highest agreement with conducting public executions is reported by Executioners. Regarding actual sadism, the belief system that people should suffer while being put to death, about a third of Hard Abstract Supporters agree with this belief system, compared to only a quarter of Soft Abstract Supporters. Actual sadism is most pronounced among Executioners, with nearly two-thirds endorsing the suffering of the condemned while the government puts them to death.

Because they favored at least one method of execution, Hard Abstract Supporters were placed on the death penalty jury. They voted overwhelmingly for the death penalty over life in prison. Regarding methods of execution that Hard Abstract Supporters endorse, they tend to favor seemingly less violent, less cruel, and less bloody methods. Like Soft Abstract Supporters, people enacting the role of Hard Abstract Supporters overwhelmingly favor the two methods of lethal injection presented. Although significantly more favorable than Soft Abstract Supporters, only a minority of people enacting the role of Hard Abstract Supporters are okay with executions using the electric chair and the gas chamber, hanging, firearms, beheading, and stoning.