SECTION 1: THE 1998 SURVEY

 The 1998 Texas Crime Poll involved a statewide telephone survey designed and commissioned by the Criminal Justice Center’s Survey Research Program at Sam Houston State University.  In that survey, conducted by Texas A&M University’s Public Policy Research Institute (PPRI) on behalf of Sam Houston State University in July of 1998, a total of 548 Texans were queried about their attitudes toward a wide variety of crime and criminal justice issues.  If you are interested in seeing the technical information describing the sample selection process, administration of the survey instrument, and completion rates for interviews, you may either write or call the Survey Research Program at the address or number listed in the front of this report.  This information can also be accessed through the World Wide Web at http://www.shsu.edu/cjcenter/College/srpdex.html.

 Included in this year’s survey were questions concerning:
• the extent of the public’s confidence in the criminal and juvenile justice systems and their components;

• how concerned people are about becoming the victim of crimes; and

• attitudes about the transfer of juvenile cases to the adult courts, people’s thoughts about the relationship between crime portrayed through the media and the actual rates of crime, and the use of the death penalty.

 Several of the issues addressed this year were also included in the Texas Crime Poll completed in 1978.  Throughout this report, Texans’ responses to the questions in this year’s survey will be reported along with a discussion of some of the more substantive findings regarding the differences between the attitudes and experiences reported in 1978. It is important to note, however, that the data collected in this year’s survey sometimes involved different question wording. The 1978 data were also collected through a “mail survey” rather than through telephone interviews. Exact comparisons across the two samples, therefore, cannot always be made.

 Table 1.1 provides descriptive information about the respondents from the 1998 survey.  The largest proportion of this year’s respondents were between 40 and 49 years of age representing 23% of the total sample.  Eighteen- to 29-year-olds and 30- to 39-year-olds each represented 20% of the total sample.  Respondents in the 60 years of age and older category comprised 19% of the sample while the remaining 18% were aged 50 to 59.
 
Table 1.1 Characteristics of respondents
Total Respondents
Percent of Total
Age 
    18-29 
    30-39 
    40-49 
    50-59 
    60+
109
108
124
  96
104
20
20
23
18
19
Ethnicity 
    White 
    Hispanic 
    Black/African-American 
    Other
339
 77
 47
 15
74
14
  9
  3
Gender 
    Male 
    Female
259
255
53
47
Education 
    Less than high school 
    High school graduate 
    Some college 
    College graduate 
    Graduate work
  59
150
160
119
  57
11
28
29
22
10
Household Income 
    Less than $15,000 
    $15,000-$30,000 
    $30,000-$60,000 
    Greater than $60,000
 56
106
188
132
12
22
39
27
 

 Seventy-four percent of the sample reported they were White, 14% Hispanic, and 9% Black/African-American.  The remaining 3% reported being “other.”  Compared with the 1990 census data, this year’s sample underrepresented the minority ethnic populations in Texas.  Census data show that 27% of Texans are Hispanic and that 12% are Black/African-American.  Accordingly, any findings concerning differences across ethnic subgroups reported in this analysis should not be generalized beyond the sample included in the 1998 Texas Crime Poll.
 Fifty-three percent of this year’s sample were male and 47% were female.  These figures differ slightly from 1990 census data for Texas, which reports 49% of Texans are male and 51% are female.  Once again, differences across gender groups should not be generalized beyond this year’s sample.
 Twenty-nine percent of this year’s sample had completed “some college” course work.  Twenty-eight percent had earned a high school diploma or equivalent.  Those respondents who reported a “less than high school” level of education represented 11% of the total.  College graduates comprised 22% of total respondents with the remaining 10% reporting that they completed some level of graduate work.
 The largest household income group (39%) represented in this year’s survey is comprised of annual household incomes from $30,000 to $60,000.  Those households reporting an income greater than $60,000 represented 27% of the total, while households reporting under $15,000 comprised only 12%.  The remaining 22% of the sample includes those households reporting a $15,000 to $30,000 annual household income.  Both the education and income variables cannot be compared to census figures because of categories used to represent the data; therefore, it is not possible to exactly compare the sample distributions with the population marginals for those characteristics.
 Throughout this report, statements will sometimes be made about the differences in attitudes and opinions between different subgroups of Texans.  Whenever such statements are made, the differences being noted may or may not be identified as “significant.”  Differences identified as being “significant” have a high probability (chi-squared values with p < or ? .05) that they are not the product of chance, but are, instead, associated with the subgroup characteristics being analyzed.  In such cases, readers can access the statistical information used to determine their significance levels by directly contacting the Survey Research Program and requesting that it be sent by mail.  This information is also available through the World Wide Web at www.shsu.edu/cjcenter/College/srpdex.html.
 
SECTION 2:  CONFIDENCE IN THE CRIMINAL AND JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEMS AND THEIR COMPONENTS

 This section of questions in the 1998 Texas Crime Poll was designed
to assess Texans’ confidence in agencies which share responsibility for dealing with crime and juvenile delinquency.  Respondents were asked how confident they were with a total of ten different criminal/juvenile justice agencies representing both state and local levels.  They were also asked about their general familiarity with the “criminal justice system” and the “juvenile justice system.”
 Table 2.1 presents a listing of the agencies included in the survey and shows how much confidence Texans have in each of the individual components of the criminal and juvenile justice systems. The vast majority of Texans have “a great deal” or “some” confidence in both their local police department (83%) and the Texas Department of Public Safety (86%).  As has been the case in previous Texas Crime Polls, the 1998 sample of Texans were overwhelmingly more confident in law enforcement than any other component of the system.  The local adult court system received the second highest level of confidence (67%) which is similar to past polls.

Table 2.1 Confidence in the criminal and juvenile justice systems and their components

                  Question: How much confidence do you have in  _____ (components were described and inserted
                  in a random order)?
 
                                                                            Percent responding
Component of the system                   “A great deal” or           “Little” or  “no”             “Don’t know” 
                                                      “some” confidence              confidence                    or refused 

Law Enforcement 
   Local police department                           83                                15                               2 
   Department of Public Safety                     86                                12                               2 

Courts 
   Local adult criminal court                        67                                 28                              5 
   Local juvenile court system                      52                                 35                             13 

Probation and Parole 
   Local adult probation                              46                                  37                             17 
   Local juvenile probation                          43                                  37                             20 
   State adult parole                                    42                                  48                             10 
   State juvenile parole                                41                                  39                             20 

Corrections 
   State adult prisons                                   57                                  36                               7 
   State juvenile prisons                               43                                  37                             20 

System as a whole 
   State criminal justice system                     63                                  33                               4 
   State juvenile justice system                      49                                  38                             13 
 

 
 

 Fifty-seven percent of the respondents had “a great deal” or “some” confidence in adult prisons within the state, but nearly one-half (48%) expressed “little” or “no” confidence in the adult parole system. Furthermore, both the local probation and state parole components of the justice system, at both adult and juvenile levels, received low levels of reported confidence.  It is worth noting, however, that approximately one-fifth of the respondents “don’t know” or refused to state their level of confidence in local adult probation (17%), local juvenile probation (20%), and state juvenile parole (20%).  Finally, Texans report lower levels of confidence in the agencies dealing with juveniles (as opposed to adults) across all components of the system as well as the system as a whole.
 Statistical tests show that White respondents were significantly more likely to express “a great deal” or “some” confidence in their local police department, the DPS, the local adult court system, and the adult prison system than were Hispanics, Black/African-Americans and people from “other” ethnic groups.  Additionally, those with a high school education or less are more likely to have “little” or “no” confidence in the DPS than those who have some college education or beyond.  Finally, females were significantly less likely than males to express confidence in the adult criminal justice system.
 Texans’ confidence in the criminal and juvenile justice systems can be further examined by analysis of whether or not their reported familiarity with the systems and their  individual components is associated with how much confidence they have in the components.  In order to ascertain the respondent’s familiarity with the system’s components, the following question was asked, “How familiar are you with… (each of the 12 agencies being examined was listed in random order by the interviewers)?”  Respondents were prompted to report if they were “intimately familiar” (know many details about the institution’s operation and organization), “ broadly familiar” (know some details about the institution’s operation and organization), “familiar” (know about the institution's operation and organization in general terms), “somewhat familiar” (know very little about the institution’s operation and organization beyond location, name, etc.), or “not familiar” (no knowledge at all) with each component of the two systems. Table 2.2 shows the association between “familiarity with the system” and a person’s level of confidence in the systems and their components. For ease in presentation, the sample was grouped into those who reported some level of familiarity and those who reported “not familiar.”  Table 2.2 also shows how many people report having some level of familiarity with each of the components.  Respondents reporting “don’t know” or who refused to answer the familiarity question were excluded from further analysis.

Table 2.2 Confidence in criminal and juvenile justice system components
              by those who are familiar with the individual component
 
 
 
Familiarity with: 
(% of respondents)
“A great deal or 
some”
“Little or none”
“Don’t 
know/Refused”
Law Enforcement 
     Local police department 
         Familiar (89) 
         Not Familiar (11) 
   Department of Public Safety 
         Familiar (83) 
         Not Familiar (16)
85
71
89
72
 
14
24
10
21
 
  1
  5
  1
  7
Courts 
      Local adult court system 
         Familiar (65) 
         Not Familiar (34) 
      Local juvenile court system 
         Familiar (45) 
         Not Familiar (55)
73
57
59
47
 
26
33
34
36
 
  1
10
  7
17
Probation and Parole 
      Local adult probation 
         Familiar (40) 
         Not Familiar (60) 
      Local juvenile probation 
         Familiar (38) 
         Not Familiar (62) 
      State adult parole 
         Familiar (43) 
         Not Familiar (57) 
      State juvenile parole 
         Familiar (33) 
         Not Familiar (67)
57 
39 
55
35
48
38
51
36
 
35
39
36
39
46
50
40
41
 
  8
22
  9
26
  6
13
10
24
Corrections 
      State adult prisons 
         Familiar (55) 
         Not Familiar (45) 
      State juvenile prisons 
         Familiar (73) 
         Not Familiar (28)
61
54
51
37
 
37
35
38
38
 
  2
11
11
25
System as a whole 
      Criminal justice system 
         Familiar (73) 
         Not Familiar (28) 
      Juvenile justice system 
         Familiar (48) 
         Not Familiar (52)
67
53
55
44
 
31
38
40
38
 
  2
  9
  5
19
 

 The figures in Table 2.2 clearly show that citizens who are most familiar with the system are likely to have the highest levels of confidence in the systems and their components.  Statistical tests show that in all cases, those respondents who are familiar with the system’s components were significantly more likely to state that they have “some” or “a great deal” of confidence in the systems and their components. It is also clear that people are considerably more familiar with the law enforcement components than any other parts of the criminal or juvenile justice systems.  For example, 89% of the sample said that they had some level of familiarity with their local police departments compared with only 33% claiming some level of familiarity with the juvenile parole system.  In general, people were also less familiar with the juvenile justice system than they were with the adult system.
 Additional statistical tests were conducted on the 1998 sample to determine if any significant differences in the levels of familiarity reported by the different demographic groups in Table 1.1 could be found.  Hispanics and Black/African-Americans were significantly less likely to report familiarity with their local police department, DPS, adult court system, and the adult prison system than were Whites and “others.”  Males were more likely to report familiarity with their local police department, the DPS, the local adult and juvenile court systems, the state adult and juvenile prison systems, the adult parole system, and both the criminal and juvenile justice systems as a whole.
  The figures in Table 2.3 report the association between system contact and level of  confidence.  Also reported in Table 2.3 are the percentages of the total sample reporting whether or not they had any contact with the components.  Whether or not the respondents had contact with the criminal or juvenile justice systems in general was not asked.

Table 2.3 Confidence in the system and whether or not respondents had
              any direct contact with the component

                                  Percent responding (may not totall 100 due to rounding error)
Contact with: 
(% of total sample)
"A great deal or
"some"
"Little or
none"
"Don't 
know/refused"
Law Enforcement 
     Local police department 
        Contact (42) 
        No Contact (58) 
   Department of Public Safety 
        Contact (33) 
        No Contact (68) 
 
84
84
91
83
 
16
15
  7
14
 
  1
  1
  2
  3
Courts 
     Local adult court system 
        Contact (17) 
        No Contact (83) 
     Local juvenile court system 
        Contact (7) 
        No Contact (93)
82
64
65
51
 
16
31
35
35
 
  2
  5
  0
14
Probation and Parole 
     Local adult probation 
       Contact (8) 
       No Contact (92) 
     Local juvenile probation 
        Contact (6) 
        No Contact (94) 
     State adult parole 
        Contact (6) 
        No Contact (94) 
     State juvenile parole 
        Contact (2) 
        No Contact 98)
77
44
70
41
54
41
70
41
 
23
38
27
38
40
48
20
40
 
  0
18
  3
21
  6
10
10
19
Corrections 
     State adult prisons 
        Contact (10) 
        No Contact (90) 
     State juvenile prisons 
        Contact (3) 
        No Contact (97)
71
56
56
43
 
27
37
38
37
 
  2
  7
  6
20
 

 Table 2.3 clearly shows that the majority of Texans who have had direct agency contact express “a great deal” or “some” confidence in that particular component of the system.  Comparing the percentages of people expressing confidence in the components of the system across Table 2.1 and Table 2.3 shows that in several cases, contact with the agency increases the respondent’s level of confidence in that component.  For example, Table 2.1 shows that only 46% of the total sample reported having “some” or “a great deal” of confidence in the adult probation system compared with 77% of those respondents who had direct contact with the adult probation system during the past year.
 Additional statistical tests were conducted on the 1998 sample to determine if any significant differences in the levels of contact reported by the different demographic groups in Table 1.1 could be found.  Those respondents who reported being White and having an annual household income over $30,000 were significantly more likely to report direct contact with their local police department than were non-Whites and those with an annual  household income under $30,000.  Males were also significantly more likely than females to report direct contact with their local police department, local criminal court system, and adult probation system.

SECTION 3:  FEAR OF CRIME AND LIKELIHOOD
OF CRIMINAL VICTIMIZATION
 

 The next section of the 1998 survey examined citizens’ concerns about becoming the victim of a crime and was constructed to allow some comparisons to be made between citizens’ concerns today compared with the concerns expressed by a sample of Texans included in the 1978 Texas Crime Poll.  Table 3.1 includes comparative figures showing how many people felt that they would become the victim of crimes during the year following the survey.  Table 3.1 also shows the proportion of respondents in each year who felt that they would become the victim of any of the crimes during the next year.  This measure represents an overall indicator of how concerned people were about becoming a crime victim.
 
Table 3.1  Percent of respondents reporting fear of becoming the victim
               of crimes during the next year: 1978 vs. 1998

                  Question: Do you feel you may be the victim of any of the following
                  crimes between now and the next 12 months?  What about (crimes were
                  asked in random order)? (Table reports percent of people responding
                 “yes” to the questions.)
 

 

Fear of becoming the victim of: 

       Rape 
       Robbery 
       Assault with body 
       Assault with weapon 
       Burglary 
       Theft 
       Vehicle Theft 
       Vandalism 
       Arson 
       Other 
 

Fear of becoming the victim of any of the above 
 

1978
 
 
 
  7
19
  7
  8
34
35
19
33
not asked
  2
 
57
 
1998
 
 
 
  5
20
12
14
24
31
23
25
  6
not asked
 
59
 
 

 The data represented in Table 3.1 clearly show that over the past twenty years, there has been relatively little change in the overall level of fear people have about becoming the victim of the particular crimes included in the surveys.  Fifty-nine percent of this year’s sample expressed fear that they would become the victim of at least one of the crimes listed in 1998 compared with 57% of the 1978 sample.  A close examination of the figures concerning each of the individual categories of crime shows that, while the overall level of fear may be the same, today’s citizens are considerably more afraid of personal violent crimes than were those included in the 1978 study.  In 1978, only 7% of the sample felt that they would become the victim of an unarmed assault.  This figure almost doubled in 1998 with 12% of the sample expressing such a fear.  Similarly, the number of people thinking they might become the victim of an armed assault jumped from 8% in 1978 to 14% in 1998.  These increases were offset by a 10% decrease in the number of Texans who report being afraid that they will become the victim of a burglary.
 Statistical tests were conducted on the 1998 sample and show that males were significantly more likely than females to report fear that they would become the victim of vandalism and assault with a weapon.  Also, significantly more males than females reported fear of becoming the victim of one of the crimes included in the survey.  Black/African-American and Hispanic respondents were significantly more likely to report fear of becoming the victim of an arson during the next 12 months as were respondents falling into the lowest income group.  When looking at the general fear of becoming the victim of a crime, however, White and Hispanic respondents were significantly more likely than Black/African-Americans to report fear that they would become the victim of at least one of the crimes listed.
 Another measure of how fearful people are of crime can be determined by examining whether or not people are afraid where they live because of concerns about becoming the victim of a crime.  In both 1978 and 1998, Texans were asked whether or not there was any area within a mile of their homes where they would be afraid to walk alone at night.  Both surveys also included a question designed to measure how fearful people were of being in their own homes alone at night.  The results from these questions are reported in Table 3.2.  Since the 1978 report included a listing of responses to these questions by gender and ethnic group membership, the comparative figures for the 1998 sample are also reported in Table 3.2.
 In 1998, considerably fewer Texans were afraid of walking alone in their neighborhoods or being alone in their homes at night than they were in 1978.  Only about one-third of the 1998 sample reported living within a mile of an area they would be afraid of walking in at nighttime compared with over one-half of the 1978 sample.  Similarly, only 21% of the 1998 sample reported that they were afraid of being alone in their own homes at night compared with 46% of the 1978 sample.  Women and Black/African-American respondents appear to be considerably less afraid of being alone in their own homes today than they were in 1978.  Today, women also seem to be less afraid of walking alone near their homes at night than they were in 1978.

Table 3.2  Fear of walking within one mile of home at night and fear
               of being alone in own home at night: 1978 vs. 1998

                 Questions:  Is there any area within one mile of your home where
                 you would be afraid to walk alone at night because of crime? (Table
                shows percent responding “yes”), and Would you say you are afraid to
               be in your home at night always, most of the time, sometimes or
             never? (Table shows percent responding “sometimes, most of the time,
               or always.”)

 

Fear of walking alone at night 
within one mile of home.
    Total Sample
        Male
        Female

        White
        Hispanic
        Black/African-American
        Other

Sometimes, most of the time, or always afraid of being alone in own house at night. 
    Total Sample
        Male
        Female

        White
        Hispanic
        Black/African-American
        Other
 

1978
 

         54
37
74

54
51
64
55
 
 

          46
27
71

44
56
58
40
 

1998
 

        33
24
43

30
38
40
50
 
 

        21
12
32

17
36
21
0
 

 

 There were no statistically significant differences in the way the 1998 sample responded to the question concerning fear of walking within a mile of their home based on their age, level of education, or ethnic background.  Women in the 1998 sample were significantly more likely than men to report living within a mile of an area they are afraid of walking in at night.  Women, people in the lower income groups, minority group members, and younger people were significantly more likely to report that they sometimes felt afraid of being alone in their own homes at night.

SECTION 4:  CURRENT ISSUES FACING THE
CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
 

 The final section of the 1998 survey included several questions relating to issues that are relevant to today’s Texans.  Questions were designed to provide information on what Texans think about: (1) whether or not youths who are charged with crimes should be tried as adults or juveniles; (2) the relationship between the media’s depiction of crime and violence and the actual crime rate; and (3) the public’s position on the death penalty.  While each of these issues is particularly salient to the citizenry in 1998, the latter two were also of interest to the public in 1978 as questions focusing on media and crime as well as the death penalty were included in that year’s Texas Crime Poll.  When discussing the findings of the 1998 survey, comparative figures from the 1978 survey will also be presented when they are available.

SHOULD JUVENILE OFFENDERS BE TRIED AS ADULTS?
 Table 4.1 includes figures showing how respondents to the 1998 survey answered two questions aimed at determining whether or not (and at what age) Texans would favor trying juvenile offenders in adult courts.  Sixty-nine percent of the respondents stated that they thought juveniles charged with property crimes should be tried as adults, and 88% favored handling juvenile offenders charged with personal violent crimes as adults. More than one-half of the respondents would recommend waiting until juveniles charged with any type of crime had reached the age of 15 before trying them as adults. Slightly more than one-third (33%) of the respondents supported trying juveniles as young as 13 years old who have been charged with personal violent crimes as adults (see Appendix material for further breakdown of recommended ages).

 Table 4.1  Texans’ Views on Trying Juveniles as Adults
 

                                                    Percent responding:
Yes No Don’t know/Refused

Property Crimes


 

 

69
 

Median age recommended = 15

27

4

Personal Violent Crimes


 
 
 
 

88
 

Median age recommended = 15
 

 

3

 

   Statistical tests were conducted to determine whether or not there were any significant associations between the demographic status of the respondents and their position on the handling of juvenile offenders.  The figures reported in the Appendix show that there are no significant differences in the way Texans from any of the demographic groups think about this issue.  Regardless of the respondent’s age, gender, ethnic status, income, or education, approximately the same proportions recommend trying juveniles as adults.

CRIME AND THE MEDIA
 It is interesting to note that the current concerns about the relationship between crime and violence in the media and the rate of crime in society is not only a current topic but was also of interest in 1978.  The 1998 survey included three questions designed to determine how closely associated people think the media’s portrayal of crime and violence is with the actual rates of crime.  Two of these questions focused on the depiction of crime and violence on television and in the movies, both of which were also asked in the 1978 survey.  The 1998 sample was also asked how much of a relationship they thought there was between songs depicting crime and violence and the actual rates of crime.
 Table 4.2 shows the percent of Texans in 1978 and 1998 who thought that the media portrayal of crime and violence caused a large increase in the crime rate. What is most noteworthy about these findings is the dramatic increase in the number of Texans who think there is a direct relationship between media depiction of crime and violence and the actual crime rate.  In 1978, only a little more than one-quarter of the respondents thought that either movie or television violence was causing a large increase in the crime rate.  In 1998, these figures almost doubled with 47% of the respondents reporting that showing crime and violence in movies causes there to be a large increase in the actual rate of crime, and 48% report similar beliefs about the depiction of crime and violence on television.  Thirty-six percent of the 1998 sample seem to have similar views about the music media.

Table 4.2  Opinions regarding crime and violence in the
               media: 1978 vs. 1998

 
                                                1978                             1998
 
        Movies                                25                                47
 
        Television                            28                               48
 
        Music                             not asked                          36
 
 
 

 Younger people were significantly less likely to associate any of the different media with crime rates than were older people.  For example, only 32% of the 18- to 29-year-olds in the 1998 sample thought there was a large increase in the crime rates due to violence and crime in the movies compared to 55% of those who were 50 years of age or older.  Similar statistically significant differences were found for television and music media as well.  Black/African-Americans were also significantly less likely to draw an association between the media’s portrayal of crime and violence and changes in the crime rates.  There were no statistically significant associations across any of the other demographic groupings.

SUPPORT FOR THE DEATH PENALTY
 Whether or not people support the use of the death penalty has always been of interest, and the figures reported in Table 4.3 show that in the 1998 survey,  83% supported its use compared to 79% in 1978.  Direct comparisons across the twenty year period cannot be made, however, because the exact question wording used to collect these data was not the same for both years.  In 1978, respondents were asked, “Are you in favor of the death penalty being available for the following crimes (six crimes were mentioned, one of which was murder).”  In 1998, the respondents were asked, “Do you support the death penalty for the crime of murder?”  The apparent differences across the two years could be attributed to differences in the question wording.

Table 4.3  Support for the death penalty: 1978 vs. 1998
 

 
                                                     1978                                 1998
 
     Yes                                             79                                    83
 
     No                                              19                                    14
 
     Don’t know/Refused                       2                                      3
 
 

 Recent attention has been given to whether or not Texans support the use of the death penalty in cases involving women or juvenile offenders.  This year’s survey included two questions designed to address this issue.  Table 4.4 shows how Texans responding to the 1998 survey felt about these questions.  Clearly, the public’s support for the death penalty in general is not affected by the gender of the murderer.  Almost 80% of Texas’ citizens say they support the death penalty for women convicted of murder.  Reflecting back on Table 4.3, 83% of the citizens supported the death penalty for murder without any mention of the gender of the convicted murderer.  The difference between these two figures is negligible.

Table 4.4  Support for the death penalty for women and juveniles
               convicted of murder (1998 sample only)
 
Percent who:

     Support 

     Oppose

     Don’t know/Refused
 

Women
79
17 
  4
 
Juveniles
49
42
  9
 
 

 When asked whether or not juveniles convicted of murder should be given the death penalty, the level of public support for the sanction clearly diminishes.  Only 49% of those surveyed believed that juveniles should be given this sanction while 42% clearly opposed its use.  Among those who did support the use of the death penalty for juveniles convicted of murder, the most frequently mentioned “minimum age” for its use was 16 years old, representing 13% of those who support the death penalty for juveniles and identified a minimum age for its application.  Another 13% were uncertain about a minimum age and responded “don’t know” when asked to specify one.  While some citizens say they are willing to execute children five years old or younger (5% of those who specified an age), most of the people supporting the use of the death penalty would restrict its use to 16- or 17-year-olds (45% of those specifying an age).  One-third of the respondents who suggested a minimum age would be willing to apply the death sentence to juveniles 13 years of age or younger.
 Tests for statistically significant differences across demographic groups concerning the application of the death penalty to women or juveniles show that in both cases women and Black/African-Americans are the least likely to support the sanction’s use.  Males, White respondents, and those with the highest levels of both income and education are the most likely to support the application of the death penalty in cases involving women or juvenile offenders.
 Public opinion research has long demonstrated that people’s thoughts about the use of the death penalty are not accurately measured through the use of simple, single-focused questions such as those represented in Table 4.3 and Table 4.4.  Studies consistently show that people’s support for the death penalty varies depending upon whether or not there exists a “true life sentence without the opportunity for parole” as an alternative sanction.  In order to determine the “true” level of support Texans have for the death penalty, all respondents who initially said “yes” (n = 446) when asked “Do you support the death penalty for the crime of murder?” were asked whether or not they would continue to support the sanction if a “true life sentence without the possibility for parole” were available.  A similar follow-up question was asked of all respondents who initially said “don’t know” or who refused to answer the initial question (n=20).
 Figures in Table 4.5 show that 73% of the respondents who initially supported the death penalty continued their support, even with the availability of a “true life sentence.”  Twenty-eight percent of those who were initially uncertain about their position shifted to support for the death penalty after the follow-up question, and when combined, these respondents represent the “true death penalty supporters” who make up 60% of the entire sample.  Twenty-one percent of the respondents who initially supported the death penalty said that they would be more likely to oppose its use if there were a “true life sentence” as an option available, and another 24% of those who were initially uncertain became opposers after the follow-up question.  Adding these two groups to those who initially opposed the death penalty shows that 31% of the sample would oppose the death penalty if there were a “true life sentence” as an option. Nine percent of the sample remained uncertain about the death penalty, even if there were a “true life sentence” available.

Table 4.5  Support for the death penalty vs. “life imprisonment
               without the possibility for parole” (1998 sample only)

                                                                      Percent:

 
 
 

Original death penalty supporters

Originally uncertain about the death penalty
 
 
 

Texans’ true position on the death penalty if there were a “true life sentence” option
 

Continuing to be death penalty supporters
 
73
 
28
 
True death penalty supporters
 
 
 
60
 
Shifting to be death penalty opposers
 
21
 
24
Would oppose the death penalty
 
 
31
 
Remaining
uncertain about the death penalty
 
 6
 
48
 
 
Uncertain about the death penalty
 
 
9
 

 
 Statistical tests show that there are no significant differences in the levels of “true death penalty supporters” within the different education and gender groups.  Older respondents, Whites and Hispanics, and respondents from the highest income groups were significantly more likely to be “true death penalty supporters” than were respondents from other demographic groups.
 Table 4.6 shows whether or not people would support legislation designed to establish a “true life sentence without the possibility for parole.”  Only 46% of Texans said they would support legislation replacing the death penalty with a “true life sentence,” while 74% would support legislation creating a “true life sentence” while continuing to retain the death penalty as a sentencing option.  White and Hispanic respondents, those respondents with the highest levels of education, and those with the lowest levels of income were significantly more likely to support legislation that would replace the death penalty with a “true life sentence.”  White respondents were also significantly more likely to support legislation creating a “true life sentence” as an additional sanction while retaining the death penalty as an option.  None of the other differences across the different demographic groups were statistically significant.

 Table 4.6  Support for legislation establishing a sentence of
               “life in prison without the possibility for parole”
               (1998 sample only)

Percent responding:
Substitute life without parole instead of the death penalty
Create life without parole as an option while retaining the death penalty
      
     Yes

      No

      Don’t know/Refused
 

46
48
  6
 
74
21
  5
 

 

 APPENDIX MATERIAL

 Appendix material can be accessed through the World Wide Web at http://www.shsu.edu/cjcenter/College/srpdex.html or you may either write or call the Survey Research Program at the address or number listed in the front of this report.
 Appendix A includes a description of the sampling design.
 Appendix B includes copies of all cross-tabulations used to determine the statistical significance of apparent associations between variables.