The Poor and Capital Punishment

AuthorMarc Riedel
Date01 April 1965
Published date01 April 1965
DOI10.1177/003288556504500104
Subject MatterArticles
24
THE
POOR
AND
CAPITAL
PUNISHMENT
Some
Notes
on
a
Social
Attitude*
MARC
RIEDEL
Instructor
of
Sociology,
Concord
College
*
The
author
would
like
to
express
his
appreciation
to
J.
Robert
Lilly,
and
Professor
Sidney
Bell
for
critical
suggestions
given
in
the
writing
of
this
paper.
1 For
an
excellent
summary
of
this
research
see
chapter
5,
pp.
231-258
of
The
Death
Penalty
in
America,
Hugo
Adam
Bedau
(ed.),
New
York:
Doubleday
and
Co.,
1964.
THE
RESEARCH
on
the
poor
and
capital
punishment
can
be
divided
into
two
areas:
( 1 )
findings
dealing
with
the
frequency
of
application
of
the
death
penalty
as
related
to
economic
position;
(2)
evi-
dence
concerning
the
beliefs
of
non-incarcerated
individuals.
In
focusing
on
the
latter
category
about
the
death
penalty
the
emphasis
in
this
paper
will
be
on
(1)
general
theoretical
issues
confronted
by
the
researcher
concerned
with
investigating
attitudes
toward
the
death
penalty,
and
(2)
examination
and
interpretation
of
the
data
dealing
with
the
beliefs
of
the
poor
toward
capital
punishment.
There
are
several
suppositions
which
seem
to
guide
research
and
action
in
the
area
of
attitudes
toward
capital
punishment.
One
such
assumption,
put
quite
simply,
is
that
what
the
non-criminal
population
thinks
about
the
death
penalty
is
significant.
It
would
follow,
then,
that
information
about
these
beliefs
is
also
important.
This
information
may
be
important
because
it
sheds
light
on
some
aspect
of
human
behavior,
ignoring
for
the
moment
that
it
may
be
used
to
modify
beliefs
in
some
desired
direction.
From
this
viewpoint,
past
research
on
the
attitudes
of
any
group,
including
the
poor,
toward
capital
punishment
has
little
utility.
Reported
percentages
of
groups
favoring
or
opposing
the
death
penalty
do
not
contribute
much
toward
understanding
the
relationships
existing
among
beliefs.’
Analytic
research
on
beliefs
about
the
death
penalty
will
not
only
aid
in
understanding
what
accounts
for
these
be-
liefs,
but
will
give
insight
into
related
areas.
For
example,
are
beliefs
about
capital
punishment
an
aspect
of
a
complex
of
political
beliefs?
Are
beliefs
favoring
the
death
penalty
part
of
a
generalized
predisposi-
tion
to
respond
with
harsh
punishment
when
confronted
with
a
noral

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