The Death Penalty in American Public Opinion

Topic: Capital Punishment
Words: 666 Pages: 2
Table of Contents


The article ‘How many Americans support the death penalty? Depends on how you ask’ was posted in The New York Times. It presents a report on a recent public opinion on capital punishment in the United States of America. Although still widely practiced, the death penalty has continued to face opposition hence its continued decline from the 1990s to date (Russonello, 2021). In the recently adjourned presidential, President Joe Biden’s promised an end to capital punishment in the whole nation once elected to office, an indication of its sensitivity in the lives of Americans from the social and ethical perspectives. However, opinion polls indicate that a larger percentage of Americans support its utilization, especially in punishing capital offenses. Those opposed to capital punishment cite racial disparities and the execution of innocent people for the sake of enforcing the law (Russonello, 2021). Opinion polls on the death penalty were conducted by Pew-an an opinion polls company, by use of both phone and online surveys for comparability and validation purposes.


The main idea in this article was to reveal differences in public opinion on death penalty. As states Krutz (2019), “after comparing public answers for twenty-five years, Pew Research found that Republican and Democratic respondents are increasingly answering these questions very differently” (p. 202). The article supports this claim, reporting on the variety of opinions in different political and social groups recorded from Pew Research. The survey was conducted by Pew Research Center Poll by use of both phone and online survey methods to come up with a conclusive and a non-biased report. According to it, just 46 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning people favored the capital punishment, against 77 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning (Russonello, 2021). Another significant challenge to the discussion of death penalty presents socialization, as well as personal ideology. “Most citizens hold a great number of beliefs and attitudes about government action” (p. 206), says Krutz (2019), and it can be seen clearly in the article. For example, white Americans would approve death penalty without any doubt, while Black Americans, who experience racial injustice on a daily basis, express doubts that there would be no unjust penalties for the people of color.

Views from the respondents could be a result of the influence from agents of political socialization, which include families, friends, media, and school. An agent of socialization “is a source of political information intended to help citizens understand how to act in their political systems and how to make decisions on political matters” (Krutz 2019, p. 203). In other words, agents of socialization are responsible for people’s beliefs and attitudes towards specific issues in society. However, it is clear that even in a group of people with similar views, the willingness to openly support of difficult moral questions such as death penalty varies wildly. “In an August 2020 Pew poll, just 32 percent of Democratic respondents via phone said they supported the death penalty, while 49 percent of online Democratic respondents did” (Russonello 2021), says the article. This is a very good example of how the survey mode impacts the people’s responses. Online polls allow the respondents to distance themselves from morally or ethically sensitive questions, which results in more honest answers. Live interviews, in turn, call to the social policies that could consider an ethically-challenged answer improper for the respondents’ social group, causing them to give a different answer.


This article takes into account the recently conducted poll opinion on the issue of the death penalty in America and its states. The concepts reflected in this article include how opinion polls come about and their interpretation. Views are formed through agents of socialization before finally forming individual ideologies on specific issues. The article is presented in a way that is influential and informative to users, especially politicians and decision-makers. In my opinion, the opinion poll in this article presents informative information that could be used by politicians to gain public support and thus have the upper hand politically.


Krutz, G. (2019). The Nature of Public Opinion. In 1399387521 1020686510 S. Waskiewicz PhD (Ed.), American Government (pp. 200-209). Houston, Texas: OpenStax.

Russonello, G. (2021). How many americans support the death penalty? Depends how you ask. Web.

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