INDEX: Death Penalty Study Findings

Opinions. Single opinions are 'mushy.' Majority opinion switches from a pro-death penalty opinion to pro-life-imprisonment opinion when the question is unbiased. Abolitionists, Soft Abstract Supporters, Hard Abstract Supporters, and Executioners respond differently to the bias and unbiased versions of the question.

About Opinions & Belief Systems. Think of opinion statements as planets that orbit an invisible belief system in the human mind. We can observe opinions in the material world but we can't observe an idea (beliefs about the death penalty, for example) in the mind. Beliefs can be measured by clustering opinions that generate similar replies. We can determine the quality of our measures by examining the reliability and validity of our measurement tools.

The Pro-Death Penalty Belief System. This belief system consists of 7 opinions that reliably & validly measure the belief that the death penalty is a just and moral punishment for murderers. Abolitionists, Soft Abstract Supporters, Hard Abstract Supporters, and Executioners differ significantly regarding the Pro-Death Penalty belief system. Technical statistical information is provided here and here.

2 Anti-Death Penalty Belief Systems. Anti-death penalty beliefs consist of 8 opinions and 2 distinct but interrelated beliefs. The four groups differ significantly in their views of the death penalty as unfair and immoral. Technical statistical information regarding the death penalty as unfair is provided here and here. Technical statistical information regarding the death penalty as immoral is provided here and here.

Disdain for Public Executions. The last public hanging in the U.S. was conducted in 1936 in Kentucky. Between 10,000-20,000 white people turned out at 5 a.m to see a black man executed for allegedly raping a white woman. The crowd's unruly behavior led to a ban on public executions in Kentucky. This belief system reflects disdain for the carnival-like conduct of crowds at public executions. Abolitionists, Soft Abstract Supporters, Hard Abstract Supporters, and Executioners differ radically in their disdain for public executions. Technical statistical information is provided here and here.

2 Sadistic Beliefs Systems. Sadistic beliefs about executions consist of 8 opinions and 2 distinct but interrelated belief systems. The Vicarious Sadistic Belief System consists of 5 items that favor executions before large crowds and live televised executions. The Actual Sadistic Belief System consists of 3 opinions that favor making the condemned suffer while being executed. Abolitionists, Soft Abstract Supporters, Hard Abstract Supporters, and Executioners differ radically with regard to their agreement with the vicarious and actual sadistic belief systems. Technical statistical information regarding vicarious sadism is provided here and here. Technical statistical  information regarding actual sadism is provided here and here.

Sadism & Methods of Execution. Those who support the death penalty vary greatly in the degree of overt violence and bloodshed they are willing to approve during actual executions. In general, Executioners are slightly less approving of lethal injections, which some witnesses consider less troubling regarding the overt suffering of the condemned. Moving from popular methods to less-popular methods such as the electric chair & gas chamber, hangings, firing squads & single-bullet executions, beheadingsstoning, Executioners are the most favorable and Soft Abstract Supporters are the least favorable. Hard Abstract Supporters fall between, but usually report closer agreement in their approvals to Soft Abstract Supporters than to Executioners.

The Death Penalty Jury. In the Death Penalty Study, pro-death penalty people who favored at least one method of execution were placed on a mock jury. They convicted the defendant of multiple murders. Most favored the death penalty on the first vote.  Soft Abstract Supporters, Hard Abstract Supporters, and Executioners differed significantly in their initial vote to recommend life in prison or the death penalty. Technical statistical information is provided here.

Conclusions. The Death Penalty Study reveals major schisms among death penalty supporters regarding disdain for public executions, vicarious sadism, and actual sadism, as well as the methods of execution they approve. This especially true for the more violent and bloody methods, such as hanging, firing squads, 1-bullet executions, beheadings, and stoning. Separate conclusions are drawn for Abolitionists, Soft Abstract Supporters, Hard Abstract Supporters, and Executioners.