States of Execution

AP US GOVernment and Politics

What state has had the most executions since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976?*

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. Describe one geographical pattern you see in this map?

  3. What do you think explains that pattern?

  4. What portion of Americans favor the death penalty?

  5. Why do you think that is the case?

  6. How do you think public opinion on the death penalty varies by political party? (see below)

  7. How do you think public opinion on the death penalty varies by Age, race, and gender? (see below)

  8. Do you personally favor the death penalty ?

  9. What trend do you see in the number of executions in the US?

  10. What is one explanation for that trend?

  11. Based on public opinion and the trend in the total number of executions, would you say that the number of executions is based on public opinion on this issue?

  12. Was the death penalty a big issue in the 2016 presidential election?

  13. In Furman v. Georgia in 1972 the supreme court ruled that capital punishment was unconstitutional. Upon what portion of the U.S. Constitution did they base their ruling?

  14. In 1976, in Gregg V. Georgia the Supreme court overturned the precedent set in Furman v. Georgia and ruled the death penalty constitutional, in certain cases. Is the Supreme Court allowed to overturn their own precedent?

  15. If you were opposed to the Gregg V. Georgia decision and wanted to outlaw the death penalty, what legal and constitutional steps could you take to make this happen?

  16. Based on all the data from the chart above, do you imagine the death penalty will be legal in 2020?

  17. How does the use of capital punishment in the U.S. Compare to other countries? (see Below)

  18. What is most surprising about any of this information?

* In Furman v. Georgia, the U.S. Supreme Court rules by a vote of 5-4 that capital punishment, as it is currently employed on the state and federal level, is unconstitutional. The majority held that, in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, the death penalty qualified as “cruel and unusual punishment,” primarily because states employed execution in “arbitrary and capricious ways,” especially in regard to race. It was the first time that the nation’s highest court had ruled against capital punishment. However, because the Supreme Court suggested new legislation that could make death sentences constitutional again, such as the development of standardized guidelines for juries that decide sentences, it was not an outright victory for opponents of the death penalty.

In 1976, with 66 percent of Americans still supporting capital punishment, the Supreme Court acknowledged progress made in jury guidelines and reinstated the death penalty under a “model of guided discretion.”


Learning extension

Read this article in The Economist about the death penalty in the US.


Action Extension

Poll 10 people about whether they favor or oppose the death penalty. Compare your data with general US data from the chart below and explain your opinion of these results in class or online.


Bonus Visuals*

Our World In Data Extension

Our Animals In Clothes Extension