UDC 343.911:343.241(438)+(410.5)
Biblid: 0543-3657, 62 (2011)
Vol. 62, No 1141, pp. 19-32

Original Scientific Paper
Received: 08 Mar 2023
Accepted: 08 Mar 2023

Why People Support Capital Punishment – Evidence from Poland and Scotland

Bachmann Klaus (Professor for Political Science at Wroclaw University and member of the Executive Board Foundation for European Studies, Wroclaw), K.bachmann@fepc.pc

Conventional wisdom uses to link support for repression and punitivity to a high level or a sudden increase of crime statistics. According to this approach, citizens should support capital punishment as a reaction to more crime. However, this is not supported by social science research. The evidence from the case studies as well as from the public opinion surveys suggests a strong link between fear and repression, however fear can, but need not be connected to high crime rates. The paper presents an overview of the most recent literature on repression, punitivity and support for death penalty of two selected case studies, which are based on social surveys in Poland and Scotland. They show that authoritarian values and xenophobia contribute more to support for capital punishment than any other factor examined. The study then discusses some practical implications emanating from the lack of correlation between the actual crime rates on one hand, and punitive attitudes and threat perceptions on the other. It argues that authoritarian and xenophobic societies may increase support for capital punishment even in situations when crime rates decrease and the police becomes more efficient.

Keywords: repression, crime, death penalty, punitivity