God's Will or Linked Fate: Race and Religion in African American Views of the Death Penalty (a Qualitative and Quantitative Approach)
63 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2006
In its adjudication of death penalty cases, the Supreme Court has increasingly relied on the notion of a community consensus in support of the death penalty as a modern justification of the death penalty. The Court supports this notion with survey data that shows a general support among Americans for the death penalty, however, the reliance on general data ignores substantial differences in support for death penalty that break along racial lines. At the same time the Court is utilizing public opinion data to support their decisions, there is a resurgence of public rhetoric in support of the death penalty based on religion. This paper utilizes multiple forms of individual level data as a way to measure correlation between religious and political beliefs and support for the death penalty among African Americans. African Americans score high on almost every measure of religiosity. Additionally, they have been disproportionately subject to this form of punishment. What do polls tells us about attitudes about the death penalty among African Americans? How does such a religious community reconcile their religious beliefs with their position on the death penalty? This paper analyzes the factors that influence African Americans' opinion of the death penalty and the beliefs that construct those opinions. The important findings of the survey analysis are that income and perceptions of discrimination significantly decreases support for the death penalty among African Americans. The survey data yields a more complicated picture of these opinions by adding the role of increased incarceration rates and belief in the fallibility of the state. This paper contributes to both the discussion on the reality of the Court's community consensus in support of the death penalty and the way various groups experience/understand this particular aspect of criminal justice policy.
Keywords: law and politics and criminal justice
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