The Politics of the Death Penalty (posted June 25, 2000)

Recent executions in Texas have prompted protests from opponents of capital punishment. Citing the large number of death penalty cases in that state, anti-capital punishment advocates have sought to turn Texas Governor George W. Bush's actions into an issue in the presidential campaign. Arguing that errors sometimes are made in these cases, protesters have disrupted Bush's events and picketed some of his public events.

However, it is not likely that the death penalty will become a major issue in the presidential campaign because public concern for education, health care, Social Security, and taxes far out-rates the death penalty as the most important issue. In addition, Bush's opponent, Vice President Al Gore, also supports the death penalty, which effectively removes the issue as a point of great contention between the two candidates. Like many other Democrats over the past decade, Gore has switched in support of the death penalty in cases of heinous crimes, serial murders, or murders of law enforcement agents. This shift makes it difficult for the death penalty to emerge as a major polarizing issue in the presidential campaign.