, Research Paper
Two Wrong Sides of the Chair
In society today there are many unavoidable issues that can change the way life is lived. One that comes to mine is crime, and with crime has to come some type of punishment. Generally there are three purposes distinguished for punishment: deterrence, retribution, and rehabilitation. In the case of capital punishment only the first two apply. There has been extensive research into the issue of weather capital punishment served a deterrent function (Neapolitan 195). Thus, there has been a growing interest in capital punishment. Research. There are two different views a person can have on this they can be for or against capital punishment. Then again, people have different views for different types of capital punishment. Research in this area is few and far between. However, the study that has been done provided a great deal of information about differences between supports and opponents of capital punishment with respect to demographic variables such as age, gender, and religion, and with respect to personality variable such as dogmatism and conservatism. In addition, it has been found that much of the variance in support of, and in opposition to, capital punishment can be accounted of by the variance in perception of capital punishment as an effective deterrent.
There has been very few empirical study of the difference between supporters and opponents whose positions are based on the perception of how well capital punishment serves the retributive function, even though there has been much speculation and theoretical argument about this issue. Neapolitan gave three functions of retributive punishment: ?Punishment also defined social boundaries, vindicates norms, and provides an outlet for the psychological tensions aroused by deviant acts? (196). Those who argue that capital punishment serves and is at least in part justified by its retributive function maintain that it serves these functions. They say it reaffirm and strengthens the value place on human life and that supports for capital punishment stems from respect for life. Many supporters also clain that capital punishment generally reinforce and vindicates some against interpersonal violence at other levels, and thus supports stems from opposition to violence and respect for the law. Finally, many supporters argued that capital punishment provides an outlet for the anger of people who have sympathy for the victims of murder (Neapolitan 196).
Opponents of capital punishment often argue that capital punishment functions in ways opposite to those sustained by supporters. They maintain that capital punishment lessens the value placed on human life and that opposition stems from respect for human life (Neapolitan 200). Many opponents also argue that by modeling and legally sanctioning violence capital punishment encourages violence and that opposition stems from opposition to violence. Opponents also maintain that opposition to capital punishment does not represent to encourage disrespect for the law, because genuine respect for the law is based not on fear of punishment but on internalized norms and values. Finally, opponents maintain that they have sympathy for victims of murder and are angered by murder, but that the violent expression of anger is not a necessary or appropriate response (Neapolitan 207).
In the winter of 1981 Jerry Neapolitan published a one of a kind article titled ?Support For Opposition To Capital Punishment?. To investigate the issue of capital punishment Neapolitan utilized a sample of college students divided into those who (1) oppose capital punishment (2) support capital Punishment only if it deters murder, and (3) would support it even if it did not deter murder. A questionnaire was administered to 366 students enrolled in eight sections of Introductory Sociology at a university in the middle Tennessee during the winter of 1980. All students in attendance the day the questionnaire were handed out completed them. Since this course is required for all students, all majors were represented in the sample. Obviously, this is not a representative sample; this study was not interested in demographic differences between supporters and opponents but in social-psychological differences (Neapolitan 210). College students have been used as subjects in many social-psychological studies that have made important scientific contributions. Furthermore, when arguments concerning capital punishment revolve around its impact on social boundaries, values, and shared norms, there is an implied assumption that similar punishment reaction have similar determinants. This study assumes that the variation in values and norms fot people having the same punishment reactions is similar throughout a society (Neapolitan 211). Different samples would most probably yield different results regarding the percentages who opposed and supported capital punishment, but the distribution of norms and values within each group should not substantially.
Respect for human life was in part measured by responses to the following Question:
`Assuming no one would know and you would not be punished, what is the least amount of money you would take to pull a switch and kill an innocent stranger in a black box.
This question is similar to the one used by Cameron (1976), in which he found that 45% of people who had deliberately killed or attempted to kill in the past would kill for money, whereas 25% of those people who had not deliberately killed or attempted to kill in the past would kill for money. Subject who filled in any amount of money were regarded as not placing a high value on human life, whereas those who said there was no amount of money for which they would kill were regarded as placing a high value on human life.
Subjects were provided a five point scale, ranging from ?strongly agree? (with a value of 1 ) to ?strongly disagree? (with a value of 5). Attitude items corresponded to the basic Hypothesized dimensions as follows.
1. Opposition to interpersonal violence: ?turn the other cheek is a better code for living and relating to other people than is an eye for an eye.?
2. Respect for the law: ?the best reason for obeying laws is that you may be punished if you do not.?
3. Sympathy for murder victims: ?when I read or hear about a murder I feel a great deal for the victim and his or her family and friends.?
In addition, actual occurrences of violent interpersonal behavior was measured by asking respondents to replu on a four point scale., ranging from ?never? (value of 0 ) to ?frequently? ( value of 3 ), to the questions:
1. Have you ever hit someone?
2. Have you ever beaten up someone?
3. Have you ever intentionally seriously injured someone?
Eight filler items were also included in the questionnaire but were not used in analysis. For example, the following statements were placed between items used.
People should respect the property of others.
I am Usually in good spirits.
It has been well established that supporters of capital punishment are on the average more authoritarian then are opponents, and other scientist have noted authoritarian people tend to agree with any statement, even the same statement reversed. This creating an acquiescence problem for those three measure that have strongly agree to strongly disagree responses. This issue will be addressed when relevant.
Of the 366 subject, 248 supported capital punishment, a percentage (67.7%) closely approximating that of the US national average. Of the 248 supporters, 82 said they would support capital punishment even if they believed it did not deter murder.
Table 1 shows that supported more often than opponents are willing to put a price tag on human life, and that those whose support dose not depend upon deterrence are more often willing to do so than are those whose support does depend upon deterrence. This table and all subsequent table are partitioned and summed in order to compare opponents and all supporters; opponents of capital punishment have the most respect for life and supported for retribution the least.
The results of agreement with the nonviolent norm ?turn the other cheek? are displayed in Table 2. Opponents have the most agreement with this norm, while supporters for retribution have the least agreement. Once again comparisons of opponents and all supporters, opponents and supporters for deterrence, and supporters for deterrence and supporters for retribution all yield statistically significant chi-squares.
Table 3 lends further support to the proposition that opponents are more opposed to interpersonal violence that are supporters. While once again the results indicate that opponents have taken part in the least amount of aggressive behavior and supporters for retribution in the most, only chi-square for comparison between opponents and all supporters is significant at better than .05.
The results shown in table 4 indicates that opponents more often than supporters believe fear of punishment is the best reason for obeying the law. The chi-square for deterrence are statically significant, but the chi-square for comparison for the two types of supporters is not. Acquiescence toward agreement on the part of supporters might account for part of the difference here, somewhat clouding this result.
Table 5 indicates that opponents more often than supporters have great sympathy for the victims of murders, though few respondents indicated a lack of sympathy. The chi-square for all three comparisons involving opponents, supporters, supporters for deterrence, and supporters for retribution are statistically significant.
These results supports the argument of opponents of capital punishment that opposition more often than support is related to respect for human life, opposition to interpersonal violence respect for the law, and sympathy for the victims of murder. Furthermore, they indicate that support that dose not require that capital punishment deter murders in less often related to these norms than is support that requires deterrence, thus these results particularly contradict the arguments of those who attempt to justify capital punishment strictly on the grounds that it serves as retributive punishment.
These results have a number of important implications. First, they indicate that research which tries to explain differences in support for capital punishment by different beliefs as to its effectiveness or by differential fear of crime, is at best complete. Since 35% of those who supported capital punishment in this study would do so even if it does not deter murders and since other studies have found higher percentage, their model is incomplete. Results such as these can also be useful to lawyers, judges, and legislators on determining the legitimacy of capital punishment and other punishments. The Supreme Court has made the ?evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.? The bases for determining the constitutionality of capital punishment.
Study of differing punishment reactions and their underlying determinants can also aid us in intelligent speculation as to the functions of legal punishment in society. It is not likely that capital punishment reinforces respect for human life, vindicates norms against violence, helps maintain respect for the law, or is necessary as an outlet for the anger resulting from sympathy for victims of murder, since opponents of capital punishment more often that supporters have the norms and values. Thus, this research indicated that attempts to justify capital punishment by its retributive functions ate highly questionable.
Just as the issue of deterrence can never be fully resolved by empirical research, neither can the issues of the determinants and other functions of capital punishment. Research in this area will by its nature always be imperfect.
The concepts in this study are difficult to measure and some may argue with the validity of indicators used. However, given the ability of the variables to discriminate between people, and the large and significant differences between opponents and supporters on the variables, it is difficult to argue that they are not tapping some important underlying dimension that is related to differing punishment reactions. It is better to base out opinions, arguments, and public policy regarding capital punishment on imperfect research than on speculation and logical constructions created without empirical basis, since equally reasonable arguments can be made for contradictory positions. Furthermore, it is better to base policy and arguments on research of this type rather than superficial public opinion polls, the results of this type rather than superficial public opinion polls, the results of which have been brought into question by recent research. It is hoped that this research has contributed to a better understanding of support for and opposition of capital punishment and to punishment reactions in general.
The research conducted in the about brief are similar to the research and goals of the following. Capital punishment is a very touchy subject in the mines of politicians in Washington just like those of the college students in Tennessee. In the following Brief three topics of interest will be discussed concerning capital punishment. The first is what race in more incline to be in favor for some type of capital punishment. The second, which closely follows the subject of race is religion, and what kind of effect religion as on the values and morals of a person. Finally, what gender favors capital punishment more frequently then the other. The limited samples of the MicroCase analysis system will cause the study to have little variety, however the program is full of facts and actualities that will give the research more than enough solid credibility. The goal of his study is to find out what type of person is willing to use capital punishment as a deterrent to crime and why they might think the way these people do. The best Hypothesis that can be formed with the information available is the white catholic males are more against capital punishment then the white Protestant females. I hope to prove this with the following methods.
In the MicroCase there is a limit to how extensive the study or research can be. The first file used was from the House, table 1 will show that the sex in the House is male 388 and female 47. This shows that there is very little variance in the sample and is going to be sufficient for our study. Table 2 shows that the religion of the House is mostly Liberal Protestant with 36.8%.