Date of Award

Summer 2013

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Jon Mandracchia

Committee Chair Department


Committee Member 2

Richard Mohn

Committee Member 2 Department

Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education

Committee Member 3

Eric Dahlen

Committee Member 3 Department



The death penalty has remained a highly debated topic in the United States. Due to the link between public support for the death penalty and its utilization as a sanction, it is important to continue investigating the factors related to differences in death penalty support. Religion has a complicated relationship with death penalty attitudes in that certain religiosity factors are associated with support for the sanction while others are linked with opposition. Religious fundamentalism, for instance, is one variable that has been inconsistently associated with death penalty support in the literature. This discrepancy could be due to the poor measurement of the death penalty attitudes and religious fundamentalism, particularly since the standard operationalization strategies of both constructs are often criticized. The present study aimed to re-examine the relationship between the two constructs by using novel operationalization approaches: measuring religious fundamentalism using a psychometrically-sound instrument and further developing and utilizing an existing, but yet un-validated, measure of death penalty attitudes with a sample of male and female college students. Principal factor analysis yielded a five-factor model of death penalty attitudes. After accounting for political conservatism and race, religious fundamentalism did not predict overall level of support for the death penalty, although fundamentalist denominational affiliation was significantly predictive of level of support for the death penalty. The findings indicate that (1) both religious fundamentalism and death penalty attitudes are more complicated than previously conceptualized and (2) religious fundamentalism and affiliation with a fundamentalist denomination are differentially related to overall death penalty support.

Included in

Psychology Commons