We know that policy makers respond more directly to citizen values on morality policy than on nonmorality policy (Haider-Markel and Meier 1996; Mooney and Lee 1995), but how is their response different when morality policy is favored by a clear majority (consensus policy) than when public opinion is more closely divided (contentious policy) (Meier n.d.)? Which values and whose values are responded to under each of these conditions? To address these questions, we conduct an event history analysis on the adoption of two states' death penalty reforms within very different public opinion contexts: the abolition of the death penalty (1956–71), and its reestablishment in the 11 years after Furman v. Georgia (1972). We find that when public opinion is closely divided on a morality policy issue, policy makers follow its contours closely, to the exclusion of most other influences. But when public opinion is one-sided, political elite ideology has almost exclusive influence on the timing and extent of policy change.