Academic report

The Public Opinion Myth. Why Japan retains the death penalty

By Mai Sato & Paul Bacon, on 5 August 2015

In this report, Mai Sato and Paul Bacon go beyond the simple results of opinion polls conducted
recently by the Japanese government, which show very high levels of support for the death penalty.
Using a similar methodology and sample, the authors reveal that the majority of the population form
their views on the death penalty with limited information and based on often inaccurate perceptions
– for example, believing that the crime rate is increasing. Sato and Bacon also demonstrate that
people have a relatively low level of ‘psychological ownership’ when it comes to the future of the death
penalty: the majority think that the government and experts should decide. Furthermore, discussions
about the death penalty among participants increased tolerance towards those with different views –
which, in turn, facilitated potential reform and change.

  • Document type Academic report