Most Americans are pro-death penalty, even though they don't really believe that it is an effective deterrent to violent crime. Those who are pro-death penalty will remain so, even if faced with the best arguments of anti-death penalty activists and told to assume the arguments were absolutely true.
Violent crime is a major problem in the United States. According to the ACLU, the violent crime rate rose sixty-one percent nationwide over the last two decades, making America one of the most dangerous countries in the industrialized world to live in. Americans are seven to ten times more likely to be murdered than the residents of most European countries and Japan are. Government's inability to make headway in the effort to solve this intractable problem, despite high-tech policing, stiffer sentencing, massive prison construction and the return of the death penalty in many states, has increasingly frustrated a fearful American public.
Politicians have used this fear and frustration over the past few decades to position themselves as "tough on crime". Every election brings more debates about the causes of violent crime, and the possible solutions, including most importantly, the death penalty. According to most polls, over sixty percent of Americans favor the death penalty. A politician who runs on a pro-death penalty platform is always on stable ground, whereas an anti-death penalty candidate, such as presidential candidate Michael Dukakis in 1988, faces an almost insurmountable problem. This, despite mounting evidence that the death penalty is not a deterrent to violent crime.
In 1976 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the d...
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... would be more immediate to a would-be murderer, and would be more of a deterrent.
Another answer could be that some problems, such as violent crime, seem so big and unbeatable, frustration and anger come into play. Americans may be at a point where they don't care for arguments or statistics, or whether it works or not. It is a strong statement as to what we believe is right and wrong.
I think the final answer lies in retribution. It seems to be an ingrained American trait. For proof, look at what passes for popular entertainment in movies and television. The final emotional pay-off of almost every movie is to see the arch-villain die in some hideous fashion. Movies where the big, bad guy we really hate learns his lesson and reforms are extremely rare. It is a gut level reaction to see someone get what he or she deserves, and revenge is a powerful emotion.
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