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Public Opinion and Death Penalty Outline

PublicOpinion and Death Penalty


  • Introduction presents an overview of the problem and the debate on death penalty that leads to certain public opinion.

  • Thesis presents the position of the paper on the public opinion regarding death penalty

  • Discussion presents arguments in support of the thesis statement.

  • Conclusion presents a conclusive view of the discussion in reference to the position on the death penalty opinion.

Thedebate n the death penalty has been divisive and cuts across themoral and political positions of the public in taking their opinion.The position of the public has been changing due to different issuesthat affect the justification of the penalty and the complexity ofthe resistance. In addition, the decision presents frustrations andtension among the public that are affected by the sentence as theyfind the assertion or the validation of the penalty. Thejustification is based on the opinion of a person across the divide.This paper seeks to understand public opinion and evaluate thedominant position of the public on the sentence. Moreover, this paperwill explore relevant research on the public opinion on debate bydiscussing the reasons for the pubic inclination to favor the deathpenalty.


Themost dominant point on the debate is the position of the pubic on thedebate whether to have death sentence on the court system or not.This point diverges to those who favor the death sentence againstthose who do not favor the death sentence. This creates the dividethrough which the debate thrives on. The debate also based on issuesthat reflects on the political, social and economic backgrounds thatshapes the opinion for or against the death penalty. To explore thispoint and the debate, relevant research has been carried toillustrate the opinion of the public at different points. This leadsto a conclusion that the public has a stand on the debate based onmajority support.

Despitethe public opinion on the death penalty, the general impact of thedebate may not be the necessary information that is needed by thejudges. Vidmartand Ellsworth (1) argue that judgeswill not give their judgments based on the public opinion but on thecurrent legislation. However, the legislation is influenced by thepublic opinion due to the pressure exerted to the democraticallyelected representatives to the legislature. Exploring public opiniontherefore indicates the attitudes of the public and the context thatguides the values held in regard to capital punishments and the deathpenalty.


Itis not conclusive to discuss the public opinion on an issue that hasled to a divisive public debate. However, through the analysis of theopinion of the public on the death penalty, and the reference ofresearch outcomes, this paper will illustrate that public opinionfavors death penalty. The discussion in this paper will illustratethat the public opinion supports the existence of death penalty forcapital crimes.


Toexplore the debate, the DeathPenalty Information Center (1) research was carried and released in2010. Regardedto be among the list of the most all-inclusive studies in Americans’opinion on the death penalty, thereport indicated that over 61% of the American population supportsthe death penalty (Death Penalty Information Center 1). Of thesepeople who support the sentence, majority further supports theextreme end of the death penalty with no parole. In the same report,39 percent of the population supports life imprisonment with noparole instead of the death sentence. This illustrates the recentposition of the public (Death Penalty Information Center 1). Inaddition, the Gallup research results do not have much differentresults.

Accordingto the 2013 Jones (1), reseacrch reports indicate that the supportfor the death penalty has been steady with majority opting for thesentence. In the beginning of 2013, the support of the death penaltywas steady at 63% against the opposition with 37% (Saad 1). This wasan increase in the support from the previous years 64% in 200 and61% in 2011. This illustrates the inclination of the public in regardto the controversial and divisive death penalty. However, later inthe same year, the opinion of the supporters dropped indicatingdrastic changes. In October 2013, a report by Gallop illustrated thatthe support for the death penalty dropped to an all time high of 60%since 1972 (Jones, 1).

Infurther statistics, public opinion has been ranging on the majorityside and at no one time has the trend favored the contrary. Thisshows the inclination of the public on the debate which can be usedto predict the future of the public view. In the beginning of themillennium, the study by Gallup indicated that all the years, atleast 60% of the population have been in support of the death penalty(ClarkProsecutor, 1). The trend ended the decade with high support of thedeath penalty, which develops u to the recent three years of thesecond decade of the millennium. Moreover, the public have been insupport of the sentence in the longer past ranging from 60 % in 1937to the 69% in the latest research of 2013.

Thepersistent support of the death penalty indicates that the currentmood in the public will be for the sentence despite the littleresistance. This means that the congress and the relevant federalauthorities need to adopt the penalty as a sentence alternative forcapital offenders (Vidmartand Ellsworth 2)However, there have been a significant number of people who do notsupport the death penalty. The remaining percentages that range from40% in 1937 research to 31% of 2013 indicate the level of divisions onthe topic has on the public view. This explains the caution take byboth the state and federal justice systems in implementing the deathpenalty sentence.

Discussionon the Public Opinion

Accordingto Clark Prosecutor (1), over 37% of those who support the deathpenalty base their support o the need to treat the convicts in thesame way they committed their crime. Death penalty is regarded as theultimate punishment for the ultimate crime committed by the peoplewho are convicted. Proponents of death penalty believe it is thefairest punishment of the people who have equally killed. The mainthought of the supporters of the sentence is the margin of the crimecommitted by the convicts. The mythical eye for an eye principle isused to apply to convicts of capital crimes, for instance, the crimeof murder is regarded t be a crime that should be replicated in equalmeasure on the convicts life (Katsh 23). This is perfectly done bysentencing them to death, an act that they also subjected to others.

Ina further support for the death penalty, the public feel that thedeath penalty makes the public safer. To the proponents, this isachieved by eliminating the hardcore criminals through the hangman’srope. This means that the proponents of the death penalty aremotivated by their own safety other than the reformation of theconvicted criminal. The elimination of the convicts however, does notmake the public safer, but bring the feeling of safety since it isthe ultimate way of ensuring that they do not find their way back tothe public domain.

Inthe same tune of keeping the public safe, the public feel that thesentencing of capital criminals to death penalty acts as a deterrentaction to would be criminals. Clark Prosecutor (1) illustrates thatfrom the gallop research, 11% of the supporters of death penalty in2013, did so because it is a deterrent act. According to Bohm (8),the conviction of the sentenced capital criminals acts as a warning gto the existing criminals to avoid crime. Since the convictedcriminals cannot learn the lesson as they are already dead, theirdeath becomes the permanent lesson to the current and would becriminals to keep off crime. Moreover, the existence of death penaltymakes the population feel that the justice system is in control overthe criminal acts in the society.

Adoptionof death penalty further acts as the main statement of the justicesystem of their commitment to the protection of human life. In acontroversial act of death penalty to capital crime offenders, thejustice system illustrates its commitment to the elimination of thosewho do not respect human life . In what can be argued as a disrespectof the human life, the act of sentencing a person to death penalty isin real fact, a respect of human life. This view is subjected todifferent understandings and perceptions by different people based ontheir perspective of life. As indicated by Clark Prosecutor (1), thegallop research showed different elements of influence of the publicopinion.

Thisperspective is shaped by a number of factors that range fromreligious, political and economic. However, the main point is that nomatter the diverse viewpoints, the death penalty is supported by themajority as a way of protecting the sentence that promotes lifeprotection. Some people feel that the death penalty should besentenced to convicts based on crime committed and to serve thejustice system it is a way to serve the justice to those who wereaffected by their crime (Bohm 12). For instance, if a person killedto rob or just to eliminate the victim, the justice system has aresponsibility of serving justice to the dead. According to ClarkProsecutor (1), 7% of those who supported death penalty had theintentions of fair punishment and serving justice as their reason.

Influencesto the Public Opinion

Politicalfactors and climate in the country has been one of the mostsignificant factors that influence the opinion of the public inregard to the death penalty. Most people are carried by the diversepolitical ideologies that are portrayed based on the big politicaldivides in any country. For instance, in the united states, publicopinion on the death penalty is shaped by the divisions among thedemocrats and republicans the two major political parties withantagonistic political, social and economic ideologies. Whilemajority of the republicans support the capital punishment forcapital offenders, majority of the democrats are against the deathpenalty. This illustrates the divergent public opinion based on thepolitical waves and moods in the country (Clark Prosecutor, 1).

Thepublic opinion on the death penalty is also shaped significantly byreligion and religious beliefs. This is further shaped by relatedmorals and values that find their root in the religious reasons.According to the Clark Prosecutor (1), at least 5% of peopleinterviewed by Gallup research based their support for the deathpenalty o religion. However, at the same time many other based theirresistance on the same religious reasons (Katsh 21). This means thatindividual interpretation of the religious values leads to differentopinion. The interpretation of the religious values on human life issubjected to economic, social and political perspectives that lead todifferent public opinion on death penalty.

Froman economic angle, a number of people support the death penalty as away of avoiding extra costs to the government trying to care forcriminals. In an argument against the criminals who kill, many peoplefeel that it is not economically fair for the tax payers to financethe costs of taking care for criminals yet they could not coexistwith those they wronged or killed. According to the 2013 Gallup pollson the debate, a significant 11% supported death penalty as a way ofsaving the economy high prison costs and saving the tax payers thecosts of maintaining high numbers of criminals in prisons throughdeath sentences (Clark Prosecutor 1).

Ethicaland philosophical ideologies also shape the public opinion on thedebate regarding the earth penalty among other diverse viewpoints.Both the receptionists and the abolitionists find their basis on theethical arguments that relate to the death penalty. On the otherside, other people seek to understand the death penalty from personalinterpretations and philosophical viewpoints. Through such stands,people argue for or against the death penalty, an element that shapestheir opinion based on the ethical standards. Many base their opinionon the fact that murder is murder, whether legally ordered orillegally done. However, the main point that differentiates these twoopinions is the intent of the murder as seen in the eyes of the law.


Thedivide on the opinion on death penalty is based on the differentviewpoints of the public. While a significant number is against thedeath penalty, the majority population is in favor of the deathsentence to capital offenders. Death penalty receptionists arguetheir support based on the reasoning that death sentence servesjustice to the victims of the convicts, thereby giving them a fairpunishment. In addition, they view it as a deterrent measure thatsets an example to criminals in the society to respect human life.However, abolitionists base their arguments on religion to refer theact as disrespect to human life. The diverse views are shaped byethical, political, economic and social considerations that influencethe opinion of the public. Despite the debate, the arguments in thepaper prove that the public opinion is in the support of the deathpenalty.


Bohm,Robert.Death quest:An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Capital Punishment

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DeathPenalty Information Center. PublicOpinion on Death Penalty.Web, Accessed on April

10,2014. http://www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/death/opinion.htm

Jones,Jeffrey. U.S.Death Penalty Support Lowest in More Than 40 Years.Web,

Accessedon April 10, 2014.


Katsh,Ethan. TakingSides. Clashing Views on Legal Issues.Boston: McGraw Hill Higher

Education,2008, Print.

Saad,Lydia. U.S.Death Penalty Support Stable at 63%.Web, Accessed on April 10, 2014.


Vidmart,Neil and Ellsworth, Phoebe. publicopinion and the death penalty.Web, Accessed on

April10, 2014,&lthttp://scholarship.law.duke.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1463&ampcontext=faculty_scholarshi&gt