Death Penalty

Michael Hoover hoov at
Fri Mar 5 15:19:32 PST 1999

> You'll find that when leftists had mass movement upsurges, abortion
> was more popular and death penalty less so. Michael Hoover'll give this
> empirical support, I hope, when he gets around to it.
> Yoshie

support for the death penalty in the US declined between the turn of 20th century & WW1 (period when the Socialist Party vote increased dramatically, SP held 1200 elected offices when US entered WW1)...12 states abolished the death penalty during this period...WW1 gov't propaganda and post-war Red Scare resulted in renewed support for the death penalty and 4 states restored it at that time...

20th century executions reached a peak in 1930s...this was both a CP and an NAACP issue...Robert Erikson has shown that support for the death penalty declined during those years and that states with the strongest ant-death penalty attitudes in the 1930s were the first states to abolish it in later decades (opinion preceeded policy)...

support for death penalty rose again during WW2 and 2nd Red Scare but began to fall by late 1950s...mid-60s public opinion polls indicated that support for death penalty was about 40% (1966 Gallup data had more respondents opposing than favoring)...states responded to shift in public opinion by reducing number of executions and stopping them completely after 1967...

renewed support for the death penalty in the 1970s coincided with the advent of chronic inflation & recession, military defeat abroad, the decline of the civil rights movement at home, and the political state's decision to again apply the 'iron fist' rather than the 'velvet glove' (among the challenges to dominant ideology in the '60s was social rather than individual explanations for crime) as part of the conservative recuperation - the misnamed 'law and order' campaign which should be called 'law or order'...

support for the death penalty approached 80% by the mid-1980s and has remained at that level (support drops tremendously when respndents have life sentence with parole as an option) is higher among men than women and higher among whites than blacks...Inter- University Consortium for Political & Social Research data indicate that more educated, more affluent are only slightly more opposed to death penalty...and murder rates are lower in states that have abolished it..

writing about US slavery, Tocqueville suggested that restraint in punishment extends as far as our sense of equality and no further... the death penalty must be unconditionally condemned and fought by a genuine labor movement...the day when Americans stop condemning people to death on the basis of race and inequality will be the day when we stop condemning anyone to death at all...Michael Hoover

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list