CrimProf Blog

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

Friday, May 26, 2023

Horii & Hirai on Public Support for the Death Penalty in Japan

Hoko Horii and Hitomi Hirai (Van Vollenhoven Institute for Law, Governance and Society and Independent) have posted Public Support for the Death Penalty in Japan: The ‘Impermeability’ Model and the Symbolic Power of the Legal Regime (Australian Journal of Asian Law, Vol. 24, No. 1, Article 11: 1-27, 2023) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
This article explores why Japan has retained the death penalty, based on an analysis of both written sources and empirical data collected during the authors’ fieldwork. The findings show that abolitionists claim that the public will reject the death penalty if they are properly informed about the topic, while retentionists argue that public opinion relies on underlying core beliefs about the evilness of crime. We conclude that Japan has retained the death penalty because the public is more likely to take a retentionist position under the influence of ‘symbolic factors’ (that is, societal values and beliefs and perceptions of the political and legal regime). Because of such symbolic factors, their opinion is not likely easily swayed by ‘instrumental factors’ (that is, knowledge and information). We frame this as an impermeability model, where the symbolic variables make public support ‘impermeable’ to abolitionist activism, exposure to new information, and international trends.

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