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The debate over the death penalty today is driven by public opinion, as it has always been. Both abolitionists and retentionists frequently cite ethical and philosophical works to support their arguments. On the other side, legislators rely on public opinion when debating issues involving the death sentence. Public opinion is a key factor in judicial decision-making, and society's values are taken into account when determining how credible a judgement is. This essay's goal is to evaluate public opinion on the death penalty by looking at social science research and surveys done by other scholars. Burgason et al. reports that 65% Americans support capital punishment for those convicted of murder. Those who do not believe in death penalties are concerned about erroneous capital convictions where one is found innocent later. Others note that there are alternatives to capital punishment. Studies done in 1994 showed that 50% of the survey population favored the death penalty and 32% favored life without parole sentences. Polls conducted ten years later in 2004, reported an increase in support for life without parole at 46%. The study also revealed that public opinion regarding the deterrent effect of death had changed with only 35% believing in its deterrent effect as compared to 61% who believed in the death penalty in 1986 ("Public Opinion And The Death Penalty | Capital Punishment In Context"). Supporters of the death penalty, believe that it is a way of preventing those convicted of murder from threatening the security in prisons.
Public opinion on capital punishment differs with each party placing their argument on social and psychological effects of the penalty. The primary concern is the wrongful conviction of innocent people who are at a risk of a death sentence. Nevertheless, public support for the death penalty has declined, and this is expected with the rise in some organizations fighting for human rights. The death penalty might deter someone from committing murder, but once life is taken, it can never be restored.
Burgason, Kyle A., and Lynn Pazzani. "The Death Penalty: A Multi-Level Analysis of Public Opinion". American Journal of Criminal Justice, vol 39, no. 4, 2014, pp. 818-838. Springer Nature,
"Public Opinion and the Death Penalty | Capital Punishment in Context". Capitalpunishmentincontext.Org, 2017, https://www.capitalpunishmentincontext.org/issues/publicopinion.
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