Graduation Year

2003

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Criminology

Major Professor

Sellers, Christine S.

Keywords

death penalty, fundamentalism, protestantism, public opinion, religiosity

Abstract

The present study attempts to provide a more thorough understanding of public attitudes toward capital punishment. Two theories are tested toward this end, utilizing a random sample taken from the jury pool in Hillsborough County, Florida. First, An indirect test of reference group theory demonstrates the degree to which faith group, religiosity, and race affect public attitudes toward the death penalty. Surprisingly, there is little, albeit mixed, support for reference group theory as it attempts to explain attitudes toward capital punishment. Using the relationships between religion and capital punishment attitudes that we presumed would emerge from the test of reference group theory, we developed a processual model to more accurately describe how the relationships between religion and capital punishment operates. A test of attribution theory provided the vehicle through which this processual model could be tested.

Although it seemed that the model was dependent on significant findings between the relationships in reference group theory, this was not the case. Indeed, we found many relationships between certain dimensions of religion and capital punishment attitudes that were consistent with previous research. Moreover, this piece of research is among the first to examine the effect of possessing a more progressive theological emphasis on death penalty attitudes. It addresses important theoretical and empirical questions regarding the direct and indirect relationships between religion and capital punishment attitudes.

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