SAGE Journal Articles
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Abstract: African Americans often live in crime-ridden communities, where the need to deter crime is high. They are also likely to be unjustly stopped by law enforcement authorities, arrested, incarcerated, and sentenced to death by the criminal justice system. This research argues that these competing pressures increase the complexity of choices African Americans must make when forming their preferences toward the death penalty. African Americans who are cross-pressured by insecurity (i.e., fear of victimization) and discrimination (i.e., fear of racial biases within the criminal justice system) exhibit more variation in the range of death penalty laws they find acceptable. Support for this claim is provided by cross-sectional survey data (N = 514) of African Americans within the United States. A heteroscedastic item response theory model using these data shows that cross-pressured African Americans demonstrate high response variability (i.e., inconsistencies) in their acceptance of death penalty laws. Subsequently, the unique experience that African Americans have with the criminal justice system contributes to complex policy opinions that are rarely reflected in public policy or opinion polls.
Journal Article 2: Worthen, M. G. F., Rodgers, F. R., & Sharp, S. F. (2014). Expanding the spectrum of attitudes toward the death penalty: How nondichotomous response options affect our understanding of death penalty attitudes. Criminal Justice Review, 39, 160–181.
Abstract: Overall, studies show that the majority of Americans support the use of the death penalty for murderers; however, few studies have investigated response patterns to death penalty survey questions that offer more than yes/no response options. Without a realistic understanding of Americans’ attitudes, the existence of this controversial legislation may hinge on inaccurate depictions of public opinion. The current study utilizes a college sample of students from a southern university (N = 775, average age 22) to investigate how nondichotomous response options affect our understandings of death penalty attitudes. Using independent variables that are commonly found in quantitative studies about death penalty attitudes (i.e., religiosity, biblical literalism, political attitudes, race, gender, age, southern region) as well as independent variables less commonly seen in death penalty studies (i.e., feminist identity, and student-specific variables: grade point average, freshman status, high school size, and sociology major/minor), ordinary least squares and logistic regression results indicate that examining death penalty support with nondichotomous response options reveals more nuanced results when compared to examinations of death penalty that use dichotomous response options. Policy implications are discussed.