The death penalty has become one of the most publicized and controversial issues in society today. Since the winter of 1936, the debate over capital .
punishment has swayed from great public support to meager numbers of .
proponents. In December of 1936, the first scientific death penalty poll was .
conducted and resulted in 61 percent of the populous “believe[d] in .
the death penalty for murder” (Acker, 27). The poll measured public .
sentiment about the death penalty in light of the exceptional media attention .
given to the execution of Bruno Hauptman, the alleged Lindbergh-baby .
kidnapper and murderer. Since this first capital punishment poll, there have .
been many others. A poll in 1966 indicated an all-time low in capital .
punishment approval ratings when support fell to 42 percent. Since then, .
support of capital punishment in the United States has grown an average of .
more than one percentage point a year. Surprisingly, in no year in which .
capital punishment polls were conducted, has a majority of Americans opposed .
the death penalty. .
One outstanding question arises in light of America’s acceptance of the death .
penalty: how has the deliberate and planned killing of “criminals” become .
such a desired and endorsed feature of our society? Public support for the .
death penalty has remained high; however, by government standards, capital .
punishment is regarded as cruel and unusual. The 8th Amendment to the .
Constitution provides protection from such punishment declared cruel and .
unusual. In the death penalty policy of 1890, only such things as “burning .
by the stake, crucifixion, breaking on the wheel, or the like” were .
prohibited. All of these things would definitely appear cruel and unusual to .
people today, the list of overly harsh punishments was expanded in 1947, .
after the electric chair failed to work twice in capital punishment .
executions. It was banned from use and declared another form of cruel and .