Sex Roles, Vol. 43, Nos. 3/4, 2000
Support for the Death Penalty: A Gender-Speciﬁc
Wayne State University
Research on the public’s level of death penalty support (DPS) has neglected
gender-speciﬁc models. While most previous work has shown that women
have lower DPS than men, it is not clear whether traditional models of
DPS will work for a sample restricted to women. The greater intolerance
of the death penalty among women may overshadow or reduce the impact
of traditional predictors of DPS among women. The present paper performs
the ﬁrst systematic gender-speciﬁc analysis of DPS. It uses national data
from the 1990 General Social Survey. Measures of three variable sets
were employed: symbolic orientations (e.g., political conservatism, authori-
tarianism); crime salience (e.g., victimization, fear); and demographic
controls. The results of a stepwise logistic regression analysis showed that
political conservatism has a direct effect on the DPS of both men and
women. For women only, authoritarianism also had a direct effect on
DPS. Further analysis showed that for women, six variables exert an
indirect effect on DPS through political conservatism and ﬁve through
authoritarianism. Only three indirect effects were found for men. However,
none of the 16 variables analyzed had a signiﬁcant gendered effect.
Indicators of traditional models of DPS were found to work as well for
women as they did for men.
Research on attitudes toward the death penalty has pursued a number
of explanatory themes. A key set of explanations has been based on sym-
Data were provided by the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research,
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
This is a revised version of a paper presented at the annual American Society of Criminology
meetings, Toronto, Canada, November 1999.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at Department of Criminal Justice, 2305
Faculty/Administration Building, Detroit, Michigan 48202-3622. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
0360-0025/00/0800-0163$18.00/0 2000 Plenum Publishing Corporation