Public Opinion and Death Penalty Policy Under Direct Democracy Institutions: A Dynamic Analysis of the American States Public Deposited

Downloadable Content

Download PDF
Last Modified
  • March 20, 2019
  • Caron, Christian
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Political Science
  • This paper assesses the conditional effect of direct democracy on death penalty policy in the American states. I argue that these institutions have played an integral role in maintaining capital punishment in the United States by enhancing responsiveness to public preferences, which are generally supportive of the death penalty. The findings provide some support for my expectations, showing that direct democracy amplifies the effect of public opinion on policy, even if it does not necessarily increase the probability that policy will be congruent with majority preferences. This paper also overcomes a methodological limitation of prior studies on this subject, which employ a cross-sectional research design. Because public opinion---especially on the death penalty---and policy evolve over time, such a design can produce misleading results due to its static nature. Using the longitudinal research design promoted by Lewis and Jacobsmeier (2017), in combination with yearly state-level death penalty opinion estimates computed by Gelman and Shirley (2015), I am able to account for the dynamic nature of opinion and policy.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Unah, Isaac
  • Baumgartner, Frank
  • Gray, Virginia
  • Master of Arts
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2018

This work has no parents.