CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Hannan et al. on Racial Sympathy and Capital Punishment

Kellie HannanFrank CullenLeah ButlerAmanda GrahamAlexander Burton and Velmer Burton, Jr. (University of Cincinnati, University of Cincinnati, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Georgia Southern University, University of Cincinnati and University of Arkansas at Little Rock) have posted Racial Sympathy and Support for Capital Punishment:A Case Study in Concept Transfer on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Beliefs about race, especially racial resentment, are key predictors of public support for capital punishment and punitiveness generally. Drawing on a conceptual innovation by political scientist Jennifer Chudy, we explore the utility of transferring into criminology her construct of racial sympathy—or Whites’ concern about Blacks’ suffering. First, across three data sets, we replicate Chudy’s finding that racial sympathy and resentment are empirically distinct constructs. Second, based on a national-level 2019 YouGov survey (n = 760 White respondents) and consistent with Chudy’s thesis, racial sympathy is then shown to be significantly related to the race-specific view that capital punishment is discriminatory but not support for the death penalty or harsher courts. Racial sympathy also is positively associated with advocacy of rehabilitation as the main goal of prison. Notably, in all models, racial resentment has robust effects, increasing punitive sentiments. Taken together, the results suggest that racial sympathy is a concept that can enrich criminologists’ study of how race shapes crime policy preferences in the United States and beyond.

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