Degree Name

MA (Master of Arts)


Criminal Justice and Criminology

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

John T. Whitehead

Committee Members

Steven J. Ellwanger, Wayne Gillespie


How society views the use of the death penalty as a means of punishment greatly affects the decisions of lawmakers, politicians who use it as a platform for election, and the criminals who commit the crime of murder. This study used 40 different vignettes involving real-life murder scenarios in order for participants to form a more precise opinion of what the correct punishment for the crime should be. Given a choice between the death penalty, life without the possibility of parole, a prison term of their choosing, or other, participants were asked to assign a sanction for each vignette. Respondents were asked to answer demographic questions about themselves in order for these variables to be regressed to examine how their status relates to their opinion of the death penalty as a punishment for murder. Statistical analysis showed income level, political affiliation, and religious affiliation to be significant variables. Analysis of the vignettes themselves revealed substantial variation in individual's willingness to apply the death penalty across various types of murder.

Document Type

Thesis - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.