catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

Will Van Nguyen's case make the death penalty more unpopular?

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Australia’s political elites lost their will to kill after the execution of Ronald Ryan in 1967. Capital punishment has been – if I can beat Homer to one of his puns – a dead issue ever since. But the public was never convinced that making the hangman redundant was a good idea. If anything, perhaps outraged by rising crime, the public became more convinced than ever of the merits of the death penalty, at least for murderers.

Back in 1960 a Gallup Poll found 60% support for hanging. But in the 1990, 1993, and 1996 Australian Election Studies (available here) support for reintroducing the death penalty was in the 66-68% range.

Since then support as measured by the AES has dropped, to 56% in 2001 and 51% in 2004 – though still with a huge gap between mass and elite opinion. In the Australian Candidate Survey run with the Australian Election Survey last year only 19% of candidates wanted the death penalty brought back, and half were ‘strongly’ opposed to it.

The media coverage of the Van Nguyen case, as he awaits execution in Singapore, may drive support for the dealth penalty down further. Though a tabloid voteline poll a month ago found 57% thought Nguyen should not be spared, the media coverage since has very much been on what the death penalty does to those who suffer no physical harm – Ngyuen’s friends, who have been running a passionate campaign to have him spared, and his mother, who already looks numb with grief. It may be hard to feel sorry for a heroin smuggler, but not for a mother about to lose her son.

Written by Admin

November 22, 2005 at 8:08 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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