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    Religion and the death penalty by Scully, Ellen S.

    Americans have questioned the morality of the death penalty for centuries. Recently, racial bias and a surge of death row exonerations have brought the death penalty back to media headlines. Although geographic, socio-economic, and racial disparities relating to the death penalty have been studied extensively, religious factors have not. This study seeks to understand why religion is consistently excluded from the death penalty debate, despite its proven importance in shaping Americans’ political attitudes, including those on the death penalty. Despite both belonging to the Christian Right, evangelical Protestants and American Catholics have opposing views regarding the death penalty; the former officially supports it, while the latter officially opposes it. Using data from the 2010 Census and the Pew Research Center, I create a probit model to discern whether large evangelical and Catholic populations help explain whether states use the death penalty. I find that large evangelical populations are not statistically significant in explaining states’ use of the death penalty, but large Catholic populations are statistically significant in reducing states’ probabilities of using the death penalty. Furthermore, I corroborate existing literature in finding that states that use the death penalty have lower incomes, more inequality, more Blacks, and more violence than states that do not use the death penalty.