U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Gender Gap in Capital Punishment Attitudes: An Analysis of Support and Opposition

NCJ Number
American Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 25 Issue: 1 Dated: Fall 2000 Pages: 1-13
John T. Whitehead; Michael B. Blankenship
Date Published
13 pages
This study used data from a 1997 mail survey of households in Tennessee to examine the gender gap in attitudes toward capital punishment, including attention to global versus specific measures.
The survey gathered information on attitudes toward crime and criminal justice. The study examined male and female global attitudes, attitudes toward a sentencing option of life without parole, the reasons that supporters and opponents gave for their opinions, and how specific factors might change the level of support for or opposition to capital punishment. The 390 responses represented a response rate of 50 percent. Results revealed that more than 80 percent of the men but only 65 percent of the women favored capital punishment. In addition, 26 percent of the women but only 12 percent of the men opted for full life without parole instead of the death penalty. Forty-one percent of the males and 40 percent of the females ranked deterrence as the most important reason for supporting the death penalty. Retribution or just deserts emerged as the next leading reason, followed by religion and incapacitation. Almost none of the proponents believed that an emotional justification had merit. Opponents of the death penalty listed the Biblical injunction against killing as the primary rationale for opposing capital punishment, followed by the danger of executing an innocent person. Findings indicated that females were less supportive of capital punishment than were males on both the global and specific measures and suggested that gender differences may be a starting point for those wanting to abolish the death penalty. 26 references (Author abstract modified)