We use the literature on race in death penalty to illustrate the hold that ideology has on researchers and journalists alike when a social issue is charged with emotional content. We note particularly how statistical evidence become misinterpreted in ways that support a particular ideology, either because of innumeracy or because—subconsciously or otherwise—one’s ideology precludes a critical analysis. We note that because white defendants are now proportionately more likely to receive the death penalty and to be executed than black defendants that the argument has shifted from a defendant-based to a victim-based one. We examine studies based on identical data coming to opposite conclusions, and the most recent studies using advanced techniques such as propensity score matching that fail to find any race-of-victim bias. It is concluded that those of us who oppose the death penalty would better do so by basing arguments on moral, financial, and innocence claims rather than claims of racism because such claims are harmful to race relations.
Walsh, Anthony and Hatch, Virginia
"Ideology, Race, and the Death Penalty: "Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics" in Advocacy Research,"
Journal of Ideology: Vol. 37
, Article 2.
Available at: https://scholarcommons.sc.edu/ji/vol37/iss1/2
African American Studies Commons, Criminal Law Commons, Criminal Procedure Commons, Criminology Commons, Criminology and Criminal Justice Commons, Inequality and Stratification Commons, Law and Psychology Commons, Law and Race Commons, Law and Society Commons, Other Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration Commons, Race and Ethnicity Commons, Social Policy Commons, Social Statistics Commons