The Journal of Scientific Psychology is a peer reviewed free-access electronic journal.
Are Attitude Towards Capital Punishment and Right-Wing Authoritarianism Related
to Capital and Non-Capital Sentencing?
Stuart J. McKelvie
completed measures of attitude towards capital punishment and of right-wing
authoritarianism, 807 undergraduates read a murder scenario and made judgments
about offender punishment. People were more likely to recommend the death
penalty if they had a positive rather than a negative attitude towards capital
punishment, if they were higher than lower on right-wing authoritarianism, and
if they were male rather than female. Men also chose a more severe method of
execution. Importantly, people with a positive attitude towards capital
punishment recommended longer prison sentences than those with a negative
attitude. Practically, this implies that attitude towards capital punishment can
be an extralegal factor that biases prison sentences. Theoretically, the results
show that attitudes have a stronger relationship to behavior to which they are
more closely related, but they do not support the contention that attitude
towards capital punishment is based on right-wing authoritarianism.