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.
This paper discusses the relationship between the type of welfare system, selective or universal, practiced by a state and the public attitudes toward the poor. How public attitudes toward the poor are formed is important because beliefs about the causes and character of poverty influence what social aid measures people will support. By comparing the welfare systems and public opinions of the United States and France I tested the hypothesis that the type of welfare system has an effect on how the public frames their beliefs about poverty and homelessness. The United States, as a selective care system, fostered a view of the poor as a differentiated group that only deserved aid when absolutely in need of assistance. The individualist tradition of the United States was reflected in its welfare system and in turn the system perpetuated the belief that poverty is most often the fault of the individual and that recipients should work as not to become dependent on the state. France represented the universal care system and was found to propagate views of the poor that were based more on structural barriers. The universal care system was based on a more egalitarian tradition and tended to view social welfare as the right of all citizens. As expected, the universal system influenced the support of more inclusive social aid that promoted solidarity among all citizens. The selective care system reinforced negative beliefs that recipients were distinct from regular citizens and that poverty was due to individual characteristics.