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Impact of Crime Victimization and Fear of Crime on Attitudes Toward Death Penalty Defendants

NCJ Number
Violence and Victims Volume: 2 Issue: 2 Dated: (Summer 1987) Pages: 99-114
R Seltzer; J P McCormick
Date Published
14 pages
A 1983 telephone survey of 610 respondents in 2 Maryland counties found that the general disposition of the respondents toward the criminal justice system was a better predictor of abstract attitudes toward the death penalty than either the respondents' fear of becoming crime victims or whether they had been victims of crime.
Yet respondents' fear of crime victimization was a better predictor of their willingness to impose the death penalty or to accept mitigating circumstances during the penalty phase of a capital case than their abstract attitudes toward the criminal justice system. Respondents who were 'somewhat' afraid of crime victimization were less likely to support the death penalty than were respondents who were 'very' afraid or 'not' afraid of victimization. These findings indicate that previous research on the death penalty may have been flawed because the wording of the question asked was too abstract and unidimensional. (Author abstract)