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August 18, 2012

New poll numbers (and polling techniques) surrounding California DP repeal initiative

This local California story, headlined "Poll says death penalty support rises after mass shootings," has interesting poll data and interesting debates concerning the poll data on California's death penalty repeal initiative.  Here are details:

According to one set of polls, support for California’s death penalty has risen — and support for an initiative to repeal it has plummeted – since the mass killings at a theater in Colorado.

A survey by the California Business Roundtable and the Pepperdine School of Public Policy, released on July 19, found that 45.5 percent of the respondents favored Proposition 34 and 46.7 percent opposed it — a statistical tie, since the difference was within the poll’s margin of error. Prop. 34 on the November ballot would abolish the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole.

A day after the poll came out, a gunman killed 12 people and wounded 58 at a theater in Aurora, Colo. On Aug. 5, another gunman killed six and wounded three at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., before being shot by a police officer. The gunman, white supremacist Wade Michael Page, then took his own life.

The first Business Roundtable-Pepperdine poll after the Aurora massacre was released Aug. 2. It found 35.9 percent of respondents in favor of Prop. 34 and 55.7 percent opposed. The latest poll, released Thursday, found 38.2 percent in favor and 52.2 percent opposed. The polling organization said its sample for that survey consisted of 811 Californians, contacted between Sunday and Wednesday, who described themselves as likely voters. The margin of error was 3.4 percent.

It’s impossible to say how much the results were affected by the mass shootings or by other events, like Jared Lee Loughner’s negotiated guilty plea Aug. 7 to serve a life term for the January 2011 shootings in Tucson that killed six people and wounded 13, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. It certainly seems plausible that news of a mass murder would evoke an emotional response and support for greater punishment.

The director of the Yes-on-34 campaign isn’t buying it. Natasha Minsker called the Business Roundtable-Pepperdine polling “very unreliable” and noted that it was conducted online, in contrast to the standard method of questioning a selected group of respondents over the telephone.

It’s hard to keep tabs on the people who take part in an Internet poll, Minsker said, and this one seems particularly questionable: It showed Prop. 34 doing better in conservative San Diego County than in the liberal Bay Area. She said phone polls by her campaign organization, and private polls she’s aware of, show Prop. 34 leading, though she didn’t give precise numbers.

But the director of the Business Roundtable poll said online surveys, though relatively new, are at least as reliable as telephone polls. Chris Condon, research director for a company called M4 Strategies, said respondents are chosen carefully to reflect the demographics of California’s voting population and checked to make sure they’re who they say they are. They’re also paid a small sum as an incentive. Condon said he’s compared some past results with phone polling on the same issues and found they were pretty close. Although the online surveys obviously leave out anyone who lacks a computer, Condon said phone polls likewise omit people without land lines, and also have to rely on the pollster’s oral description of each ballot measure. Participants in the online polls, Condon said, see the measure’s title and summary and can open a link to the ballot arguments. “In a sense, we’re closer to how people vote,” he said....

Whatever the method, Mitch Zak, spokesman for the No-on-34 campaign, said the latest poll “highlights what folks have known all along: Californians strongly support the death penalty.”

August 18, 2012 at 01:48 PM | Permalink

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In Memoriam of Prof. Hugo Adam Bedau
17 August 1915 Leo Frank lynching

Capital Punishment is like slavery: nobody has the right to impose it.
Death penalty is a clear violation of human rights: right to equality, right to life, freedom from torture.
It is a black hole in the Law: a land with unclear borders changing in different times and countries.
It is a “privilege” of the poor, because “capital punishment means that those without the capital get the punishment”.
It is an irreversible punishment that kills the insane and the innocent.
It is not self-defense, but revenge.
It is not a more effective deterrent than prison and makes worst the evil it pretends to cure, because death penalty brutalizes and makes society more violent.
Death penalty is a human sacrifice, a ritualistic slaughter carried out in cold blood by the State. It is a travesty of justice and “nothing more than the purposeless and needless imposition of pain and suffering”.
Sooner or later everybody will realize that capital punishment is an immoral, indecent, illegal, expensive, stupid, cruel, dangerous, racist, classist, arbitrary, capricious, inconsistent, not working violation of human rights.


Posted by: Claudio Giusti | Aug 18, 2012 1:57:43 PM

Kent and I had the pleasure of an on-line debate with Ms. Minsker. I'm glad she has polls that make her happy.

That aside, I'll bet $100 right here and now that Prop 34 gets tanked. Any takers?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 18, 2012 9:17:15 PM

The arguments in support of the ballot measure to abolish the death penalty are exaggerated at best and, in most cases, misleading and erroneous. Proposition 34 is being funded primarily by a wealthy company out of Chicago, the ACLU, and similarly-oriented trust funds. It includes provisions that would only make our prisons less safe for both other prisoners and prison officials and significantly increase the costs to taxpayers due to life-time medical costs, the increased security required to coerce former death-row inmates to work, etc. The amount “saved” in order to help fund law enforcement is negligible and only for a short period of time. Bottom line, the “SAFE” Act is an attempt by those who are responsible for the high costs and lack of executions to now persuade voters to abandon it on those grounds. Obviously, these arguments would disappear if the death penalty was carried forth in accordance with the law. Get the facts at and supporting evidence at http://cadeathpenalty.webs.com and http://waiting4justice.org/.

Posted by: Chris Bernstien | Aug 19, 2012 6:57:16 PM

In Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U. S. 153 (1976) , we explained that unless a criminal sanction serves a legitimate penological function, it constitutes “gratuitous infliction of suffering” in violation of the Eighth Amendment . We then identified three societal purposes for death as a sanction: incapacitation, deterrence, and retribution. See id., at 183, and n. 28 (joint opinion of Stewart, Powell, and Stevens, JJ.). In the past three decades, however, each of these rationales has been called into question.


The imposition of the death penalty represents “the pointless and needless extinction of life with only marginal contributions to any discernible social or public purposes. A penalty with such negligible returns to the State [is] patently excessive and cruel and unusual punishment violative of the Eighth Amendment.”
— Justice John Paul Stevens

Posted by: Claudio Giusti | Aug 20, 2012 6:36:20 AM

@Claudio
“the pointless and needless extinction of life with only marginal contributions to any discernible social or public purposes."

There would have been a clear social benefit in executing David Hausner and Richard Gleason after their first murders: they never would have been able to commit further murders.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Aug 20, 2012 12:40:06 PM

Why don’t you kill all the murderers?

Posted by: Claudio Giusti | Aug 20, 2012 2:56:18 PM

that's easy claudio....if we did that we'd have no govt left!

Of course in mine and millions of other americans...that would in fact be an improvement!

Posted by: rodsmith | Aug 21, 2012 1:17:32 AM

It may take more than the current propoganda on TNT's new "Major Crimes" (Gil Garcetti--Proposition 34 supporter and chief consultant to the show).

Posted by: wac | Aug 21, 2012 2:47:45 AM

Death penalty is a human sacrifice, a ritualistic slaughter carried out in cold blood by the State.

Posted by: Claudio Giusti | Aug 21, 2012 9:47:30 AM

@Claudio
Do you always speak in slogans?

Posted by: MikeinCT | Aug 21, 2012 2:12:06 PM

A slogan is a Scottish battle cry and a short way to launch big ideas

Posted by: Claudio Giusti | Aug 21, 2012 3:30:50 PM

@Claudio
Actually, they're a way of spamming the board when you can't form an argument of your own. But please, what big ideas were you trying to launch with 'let's have a Chinese massacre'?

Posted by: MikeinCT | Aug 22, 2012 1:35:58 PM


I can’t what????????
Please, use your name and read the first post.
I see you are just an hangman friend, but over there you can find enough infos.
It is NOT my fault if you Americans cannot stomach to kill as your laws ask.
If you like you can read a lot of useful things here
http://www.astrangefruit.org/index.php/it/
http://www.astrangefruit.org/index.php/en/
http://www.osservatoriosullalegalita.org/special/penam.htm

Posted by: Claudio Giusti | Aug 22, 2012 2:35:01 PM

@Claudio
That's not an argument, that's spamming the board with a random assortment of links. Links to other people's opinions at that.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Aug 22, 2012 3:10:35 PM

I am sorry for you

Posted by: Claudio Giusti | Aug 22, 2012 3:50:43 PM

Claudio --

Would you like to take my bet?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 22, 2012 8:50:02 PM

the fight against the death penalty is a fight for human rights and justice. It is not a monkey business

Posted by: Claudio Giusti | Aug 23, 2012 4:16:33 AM

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