Assessing the Impact of Affective and Cognitive Information in Predicting Attitudes toward Capital Punishment
Research studying the public's attitudes toward capital punishment has typically assessed whether individuals favor or oppose the use of the death penalty, without examining the underlying structure of these attitudes. The present study used a general model of attitude to examine the relative importance of affective information (i. e., feelings) and cognitive information (i. e., beliefs) in predicting attitudes toward capital punishment. Open-ended elicitation measures were used to determine the particular feelings and beliefs respondents most frequently associated with the issue. Participants also reported their attitude (i. e., overall evaluation) toward the issue. The results revealed that: (a) even the most frequently elicited responses were provided by a minority of respondents, (b) overall, both affective and cognitive information were important in predicting attitudes toward capital punishment, and (c) the relative importance of affective and cognitive information in predicting attitudes differed as a function of individual differences in attitude structure. The implications of the results for future research are discussed.