INTRODUCTION Capital punishment has changed in many ways. Michael Radelet (2000), states that arguments supporting the death penalty today, compared to 25 years ago, rely less on such issues as deterrence, cost, and religious principles, and more on the grounds of retribution. Radelet also says that those who support the death penalty are more likely today than in years past to acknowledge the inevitability or racial, gender, and class bias in death sentencing, as well as the inevitability of executing the innocent. Ellsworth and Gross (1994), stated that since 1982 about three quarters of the population has favored capital punishment (Borg & Radelet, 2000). Some people have no explanation for their opinion of capital punishment as cited in Radelet (2001), where he states, generally those supporting the death penalty do not want to debate its merits with experts in front of a jury. There is a distinct difference in support for the death penalty, which attracts a majority of Americans, and the preference for the death penalty with attracts on the minority (Niven, 2002). Despite the fact that capital punishment has not been a statistically proven deterrent of crime, the majority continues to favor this punishment (Holden, 1993; McCorkle 1993 as cited in Oliver, 1997). Vidmar (1974) found that 32% of respondents who favored capital punishment have retributive reasons, in addition 55% of individuals who favored capital punishment, said they would favor it even if it had no deterrent value (Oliver, 1997). This just goes to show that sometimes there is no reason for one either supporting or rejecting the idea of capital punishment. The numbers go to show that there has been nothing but an increase in the number of Americans who support the death penalty. Gallup found that 76% of Americans favored the death penalty; in 1994, 80% of Americans supported the death penalty (Radelet, 2000). In a study done by Valliant and Oliver, age was a significant factor in the study of whether or not the death penalty should be used or not, the younger the subject was the harsher their attitude was (Oliver, 1997). Gender could also have an impact on the views of capital punishment. There has been very little research done on the death penalty and gender discrimination (Rapaport, 1991). The victims of women killers are substantially more likely than those of men to be family members and less likely to be strangers (Rapaport, 1991). Rapaport also states that the kinds of crimes that are most likely to result in capital punishment such as felony murders and other predatory murders, are most likely to be comminted by men against other men and against women and children in other mens families which accounts for some of the reason why women are not executed as often. In a study done by Valliant and Oliver, the research did not support their hypothesis that males would hold harsher attitudes than females toward capital punishment. Males and females were found to be evenly split in their support of capital punishment (Fattah, 1979; Sandys & McGarrell, 1995; Bohm, Clark & Aveni, 1991 as cited in Oliver, 1997). Starr (1983) reported that women were less in favor of capital punishment than were men (as cited in Lester, 1997). Women are not sentenced as much as men are as shown in a study by Victor Streib. Streib states that women compromise 13% or murder arrests, yet they account for a mere 2% of actual death sentences (Reuter, 1996). The purpose of my study was to find out whether or not men or women are more likely to sentence a woman or a man to the death penalty. I wanted to know if men were more lenient with women because they are female or if they were not going to be sympathetic to them at all. I also wanted to know if there was going a difference between the men and women in general on their views of the death sentence. The independent variable in this experiment was going the survey with the two scenarios used to determine whether or not they are in favor of capital punishment. The dependent variable was whether or not they have a significant opinion on the death penalty or not.
The participants in this study were randomly assigned from General and Intermediate Psychology courses at Missouri Western State College. There were 20 males and 20 females that participated in the study. The average age of the participants was 20.7 years old, and the ages ranged from 18 to 47 years of age.
In this study, the participants were asked to take a short survey which included instructions on how to participate in the study and then two paragraphs were also included that were short descriptions of a crime that a man or a woman had committed. The only materials that were used in this study were a pencil and paper survey.
The subjects were assigned to do a pencil and paper survey. The participants were asked to fill out three demographic questions which asked their age, sex and race. The survey also included two short paragraphs of two different scenarios. The scenarios were short descriptions of two crimes that had been committed. One scenario was a crime committed by a woman and the other was a crime committed by a man. Students were then asked to decide whether or not they felt that the person should receive the death penalty or not.
RESULTS A 2 x 2 mixed-design ANOVA was calculated to examine the effects of the gender of the participants in the study and the gender of the person who was being accused of the crime in the scenario. No significant main effects or interactions were found. The gender of the participants x the gender of the person in the scenario interaction (F(1, 38) =.109, p>.05), the main effect for gender of the participant (F(1, 38) =.815, p>.05) the main effect for the gender of the person in the scenario (F(1,38)=.997, p>.05) were all not significant. The idea of sentencing someone to the death penalty was not influenced by gender of the participant or gender of the person in the scenario.
DISCUSSION I was looking to see if men or women were more likely to sentence men or women to the death penalty. There was a slight, significant trend that showed men were slightly more likely to sentence a man to capital punishment that they were to women. In my study, I found that there was no significant difference in whether or not men or women are more likely to sentence a man or a woman to the death penalty. In relationship to the literature, I found that there was a significant relationship between other studies and the study that I performed in class. In the literature it has been shown that there is no hard evidence that men are more likely to sentence men to the death penalty and to be more lenient to the women that have committed the crimes (Oliver, 1997). The literature also states that women are not sentenced as much as men, so this either shows that the courts are more lenient on women or that women do not commit as severe crimes that men do (Reuter, 1996). Rapaport (1991), states that the kinds of crimes that are most likely to result in capital punishment such as felony murders and other predatory murders, are most likely to be committed by men against other men and against women and children in other mens families which accounts for some of the reason why women are not executed as often. The limitations in this study could have been a large part as to why I received the results that I did. Some limitations could be that while taking the survey the participants were able to talk freely and discuss what they though and by that they may have been influenced by their peers. Another reason that could be attributed to the non-significant results that I received could be that the people that I surveyed strongly agreed or disagreed with the idea of capital punishment in general. If a person were to disagree with the idea of capital punishment, the gender of the person committing the crime in the scenario would not make a difference because they would not sentence either person. I think that if I were to repeat this study again it would be likely that I would get the same results because of all of the factors that can influence ones idea of capital punishment. I think that if I were to do another study that were similar to this I would have another demographic question that asked whether or not the participant was fully in favor or full opposed to the idea of capital punishment. I would also ask the participants not to discuss their answers with their peers, but to solely answer based on their own opinion. These two tasks would help eliminate some of the limitations in the study.
REFERENCESBorg, M.J., Radelet, M.L. (2000). The changing nature of death penalty debates. Annual Review of Sociology, 26, 43-61.
Lester, D., Maggioncalda-Artez, M. (1997). Adolescents` attitudes toward the death penalty. Adolescence, 32, 447.
Niven, D. Bolstering and illusionary majority: The effets of the media`s portrayal of death penalty support. Social Science Quarterly, 83, 671-689.
Oliver, C.L., Valliant, P.M. (1997). Attitudes toward capital punishment: A function of leadership style, gender and personality. Social Behavior and Personality, 25, 161-168.
Radelet, M.L. (2001). Humanizing the death penalty. Social Problems, 48, 83.
Rapaport, E. (1991). The death penalty and gender discrimination. Law and Society Review, 25, 367.
Reuter, T. (1996). Why women aren`t executed: Gender bias and the death penalty. Human Rights: Journal of the Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, 23, 10.
APPENDIX A Please fill out the three following demographic questions and then read the two following paragraphs. If you think that the person described in the paragraph should receive the death penalty then please circle the yes option after the paragraph. If you do not think that the individual should receive the death penalty then please circle no.
Gender: Male Female
A woman has killed her two children by first trying to feed them a drug, potassium chloride. When the drug did not kill the children, the woman proceeded to smother her children, one of them her five- year -old son and the other her two- year -old daughter.Do you think that this woman should receive the death penalty for her actions?
A man has killed a woman that was delivering a pizza late one night. The man raped the woman and then killed her by stabbing her many times. Do you think that this man should receive the death penalty for his actions