Abstract

Using data from the 2000 National Election Study, this research investigates the sources of the racial divide in support for capital punishment with a specific focus on white racism. After delineating a measure of white racism, we explore whether it can account for why a majority of African Americans oppose the death penalty while most whites support it. The results indicate that one-third of the racial divide in support for the death penalty can be attributed to the influence of our measure of white racism. The analyses also revealed that when other factors are controlled, support for capital punishment among nonracist whites is similar to that of African Americans. We examine the implications of these findings for using public opinion to justify the death penalty.

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