The Political Sociology of the Death Penalty: A Pooled Time-Series Analysis

By Jason T. Carmichael / David Jacobs / American Sociological Review, on 1 January 2002

Despite the interest in the death penalty, no statistical studies have isolated the social and political forces that account for the legality of this punishment. Racial or ethnic threat theories suggest that the death penalty will more likely be legal in jurisdictions with relatively large black or Hispanic populations. Economic threat explanations suggest that this punishment will be present in unequal areas. Jurisdictions with a more conservative public or a stronger law and order Republican party should be more likely to legalize the death penalty as well. After controlling for social disorganization, region, period, and voilent crime, panel analyses suggest that minority presence and economic inequality enhance the likelihood of a legal death penalty. Conservative values and Republican strength in the legislature have equivalent effects; A supplement time-to-event analysis supports these conclusions. The results suggest that a political approach has explanatory power because threat effects expressed through politics and effects that are directly political invariable account for decisions about the legality of capital punishment.

  • Document type Article
  • Countries list United States
  • Themes list Networks,