Abolition of the death penalty. An event history analysis of the political, cultural and socioeconomic determinants of death penalty abolition.
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During the past 50 years, more and more countries have abolished the death penalty. Today, more than half of the countries of the world have removed capital punishment from their laws for crimes such as murder. The use of the death penalty is highly controversial, and regularly creates political tension between countries with differing perspectives on the issue. Nevertheless, very little research has been devoted to studying the determinants of death penalty abolition. This thesis is intended as one step towards filling that gap, and studies the political, cultural and socio-economic determinants of abolition of the death penalty. A range of political, cultural and socio-economic factors that are hypothesised to influence the likelihood of abolition are presented. The hypotheses are tested empirically on 145 countries observed in from 1960 to 2004. Event history analysis, more specifically a semiparametric Cox proportional hazards model, is employed. Event history analysis is ideally suited for this research question, as it models both the duration until abolition and the occurrence or non-occurrence of abolition, under the assumption that countries with a higher likelihood of abolition will do away with capital punishment quicker than countries with a lower likelihood. The results show that political factors, including level of democracy, democratic transitions, the political orientation of the executive, experience with war, and abolitionist pressure, are more important in determining abolition than cultural and socioeconomic factors. This conclusion is supported by previous research. However, the analysis also introduces variables that previously have not been included in analyses of abolition, and operationalises variables in new ways. This brings several new and very interesting findings to the study of death penalty abolition. For instance, the results indicate that abolitionist pressure may be successfully applied through international economic relations, and not just the political and regional channels that have previously been explored. Furthermore, abolition of the death penalty is operationalised in two different manners in this analysis, as abolition for all crimes or as abolition for ordinary crimes, which mainly involves that countries may retain the death penalty for war-time crimes. The results indicate that the distinction between the two forms of abolition is not irrelevant, as several of the independent variables influence the two differently.