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Unmasking the American death penalty debate: Race, context, and citizens’ willingness to execute

Social Science Quarterly

Published online on

Abstract

["Social Science Quarterly, EarlyView. ", "\nAbstract\nResearch on public attitudes toward the death penalty has yet to systematically examine the role of race in the context of offense‐related attributes. This study uses a conjoint experiment randomly exposing a sample of 500 U.S. adults to different pairings of capital offenders to test the role of both offender and offense‐related attributes on beliefs about death penalty deservingness. The results show offense‐related factors play a significant role in who the public deems deserving of the death penalty, while the offender's race matters only for citizens holding prejudicial opinions towards Blacks or Latinos. Instrumental considerations typically outweigh racial considerations in death penalty judgments, although perceptions of those factors might be racialized as well. The results point to a potential disjuncture between the desires of citizens and the implementation of the death penalty.\n"]