« Seeking input and insights concerning recent SCOTUS criminal procedure arguments | Main | "Obama Has Granted Clemency More Rarely Than Any Modern President" »

November 2, 2012

Latest poll shows death penalty repeal leading in California

Field pollAs reported in this new front-page Sacramento Bee article, advocates for repeal of the death penalty in California have some (surprisingly?) good news in the latest polling data.  The article is headlined "Field Poll shows measure to end death penalty gaining, but still lacking 50%," and here are excerpts:

With concern over the cost of capital punishment rising, California voters may be poised for a historic vote to abolish the state's death penalty, a new Field Poll indicates.

Support for the measure, Proposition 34, remains below 50 percent. But the poll released this morning found 45 percent of likely voters favor replacing the punishment with life in prison, while 38 percent oppose doing away with capital punishment. Another 17 percent say they remain undecided.

The latest survey shows support for abolishing the death penalty rising as Election Day nears. A Field Poll released in September found 42 percent in favor of the measure and 45 percent opposed, with 13 percent undecided at that time.

"It's certainly an encouraging poll for the Proposition 34 supporters, but it still has a long way to go," Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo said. "It's got to get above 50 percent, and it's moving in the right direction." DiCamillo said many measures tend to lose support after voters take a closer look at the issues, but Proposition 34 "is actually gaining strength as voters learn more about it."

That may stem from the fact that there is an increasing number of likely voters – 53 percent in the new poll – who have concluded that maintaining the death penalty is more expensive than keeping inmates in prison for the rest of their lives. The proponents of Proposition 34 have based their campaign on that notion, saying California could save hundreds of millions of dollars by doing away with the death penalty and that the state has spent $4 billion to execute only 13 inmates since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978.

"The single issue that reasonates is cost," said Sacramento attorney Don Heller, who wrote the initiative that restored the death penalty in California in 1978 but now opposes capital punishment. "Even when you address the issue of potentially executing an innocent person, it's the cost that reasonates. All of a sudden it's being brought home, when counties are going bankrupt and cities are going bankrupt, that there's just not enough money out there."

Death penalty supporters dispute the cost savings claims and questioned the latest poll figures, especially the finding that 17 percent of voters are undecided on such an issue. "This poll shows that Proposition 34 continues to be under 50 percent," said Peter DeMarco, a spokesman for opponents of the measure. "It's never been above 50 percent since the beginning of the campaign. And I think the 17 percent undecided is significantly inaccurate for an issue that is of such familiarity in California."

DeMarco said he believes that when voters are asked to actually decide, they will trend toward keeping the death penalty in place. He noted that numerous law enforcement groups, prosecutors and political leaders have spoken out against Proposition 34....

The poll of 1,566 likely voters was taken in two waves of telephone questioning, the first from Oct. 17-24 and the second from Oct. 25-30, and the initiative gained support in the later survey period. In the first wave, the measure was nearly tied, with 41 percent saying they would vote to abolish the death penalty and 40 percent opposed. It was in the second round of interviews that support rose to 45 percent.

I think it is fair to predict that repeal of California's death penalty via voter initiative would be a transformative moment in the modern history of the death penalty in the United States.  Depite these latest poll numbers, I am still expecting/predicting that Proposition 34 will fail.  Nevertheless, I find the trends here fascinating and perhaps yet another example of Justice Thurgood Marshall's (in)famous hypothesis in Furman that the more informed people are about the actual operation of the death penalty, the less likely they are to support its administration.

Some very recent related posts (with lots of notable comments):

November 2, 2012 at 08:48 AM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e2017c3306235f970b

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Latest poll shows death penalty repeal leading in California:

Comments

Looks like I'm with the White & maybe soon Asian, Protestant, maybe soon Male, New/Occasional Republican voters from South Coast & So. Cal.

[with 17% undec in this poll]

Posted by: Adamakis | Nov 2, 2012 9:19:00 AM

The recent history in California is that liberals win the polling and lose the election, see, e.g., Prop 19.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 2, 2012 10:06:44 AM

no offense bill but when i see 100% of the polls saying one thing and the votes saying another i tend to think somoene is stuffing the vote!

Posted by: rodsmith | Nov 2, 2012 10:27:10 AM

Bill just wants to win his bet. I'm sure he made it with someone not as cheap as I.

Posted by: Joe | Nov 2, 2012 10:45:37 AM

My recollection on Prop 19 was that the polling matched the outcome. E.g., just before the vote this poll had it losing 55-40: http://www.suffolk.edu/44241.html

FWIW, the sample size in the SacBee poll was large enough that it ought to be fairly accurate, but expect the undecideds to break 2-1 against. Close vote, but if it wins, IMO not transformative. Who doesn't believe DP proponents will be back in 2-4 years with their own initiative to reverse it?

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Nov 2, 2012 10:54:13 AM

Joe --

If you're cheap, that's all the more reason to take the bet and win yourself some easy money.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 2, 2012 11:15:18 AM

rodsmith --

"no offense bill but when i see 100% of the polls saying one thing and the votes saying another i tend to think somoene is stuffing the vote!"

Actually, the other polls (e.g., Business Roundtable/Pepperdine) say Prop 34 is behind. But, for however that may be, when I see the polls saying one thing and the election saying the other, I agree with you that something was rigged -- but the thing that was rigged was the polling, not the vote.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 2, 2012 11:19:59 AM

It sounds like this Bill Otis guy has little more to offer than standard Republican tripe.

He doesn't like certain facts; he doesn't like certain poll results; so, he just denies that they exist.

Let's hope Californians do the right thing and get rid of the immoral death penalty in their state.

Posted by: No Drug War | Nov 2, 2012 1:00:58 PM

"do the right thing and get rid of the immoral death penalty in their state"

How is it immoral?

NYC ex-Mayor Koch wrote this:

"Last December a man named Robert Lee Willie, who had been convicted of raping
and murdering an eighteen-year-old woman, was executed in the Louisiana state
prison. In a statement issued several minutes before his death, Mr. Willie said:
-----“Killing people is wrong.... It makes no difference whether it’s citizens, countries, or governments. Killing is wrong.”

Two weeks later in South Carolina, an admitted killer named Joseph Carl Shaw was
put to death for murdering two teenagers. In an appeal to the governor for
clemency, Mr. Shaw wrote:
-----“Killing was wrong when I did it. Killing is wrong when you do it. I hope you have the courage and moral strength to stop the killing.”

It is a curiosity of modem life that we find ourselves being lectured on morality by cold-blooded killers.
Mr. Willie previously had been convicted of aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping, and the murders
of a Louisiana deputy and a man from Missouri. Mr. Shaw committed another murder a week before
the two for which he was executed, and admitted mutilating the body of the fourteen-year-old girl
he killed. I couldn’t help wondering what prompted these murderers to speak out Is they entered
the deathhouse door. Did their newfound newfound reverence for life stem from the realization that
they were about to lose their own.

Life is indeed precious, and I believe the death penalty helps to affirm that fact.
Had the death penalty been a real possibility in the minds of these murderers,
they might well have stayed their hand. They might might have shown moral
awareness before their victims died, and not after. Consider the tragic death of
Rosa Velez, who happened to be home when a man named Luis Vera burglarized
her apartment in Brooklyn.
-----“Yeah, I shot her,” Vera admitted. “She knew me, and I knew I wouldn’t go to the chair.”

http://faculty.mdc.edu/dmcguirk/ENC2106/kochdeathpenalty.htm

Posted by: Adamakis | Nov 2, 2012 1:38:03 PM

No Drug War --

"It sounds like this Bill Otis guy has little more to offer than standard Republican tripe."

It sounds like this Meth-is-Wonderful guy has little more to offer than standard legalizer tripe.

Think this sort of thing moves the ball? Right. So forget it, put down the bong and make an argument.

"He doesn't like certain facts; he doesn't like certain poll results; so, he just denies that they exist."

Show me one single post of mine in which I said or implied that a fact or a poll result "doesn't exist." Should I wait?

Here's a fact, however: The CSA has been around for forty years. Enacted by a heavily liberal and Democratic Congress, it has not been significantly changed in 20 Congresses, both under Democratic and Republican control.

Stop complaing about "facts you don't like" and go win your case with Congress. If you can't, it's just a cheap salve for your impotence to come to an Internet site and anonymously bellyache.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 2, 2012 2:52:08 PM

"Let's hope Californians do the right thing and get rid of the immoral death penalty in their state."

Isn't it funny---people like "No Drug War" are always so certain of what is immoral. Yet, my guess is that they never even bother to consider the morality of yanking the rug out from under victims' families as this legislation will do. Deal with that.

Posted by: federalist | Nov 2, 2012 3:15:22 PM

Isn't if funny that people like federalist always [well often] are so certain of what is immoral? Yet, my guess is that they do bother to consider the morality, even if they disagree with the brother of a local murder victim that the death penalty should not be on the table. I deal with it either way.

Posted by: Joe | Nov 2, 2012 3:28:55 PM

"Show me one single post of mine in which I said or implied that a fact or a poll result 'doesn't exist.' Should I wait?"

Bill, I'd asserted above that the alleged polling you referenced regarding Prop 19 - certainly at a comparable point just prior to election day - didn't exist, and that the premise of your first comment on this string was BS. You ignored it, naturally, because you prefer to debate red herrings. Bill Maher refers to that sort of behavior as living within "the bubble" where facts and logic cannot penetrate, and you're a poster child. No Drug War's got your number.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Nov 2, 2012 3:46:23 PM

Grits,

The DP proponents might be back with their own initiative in a few years, but Prop 34 would sweep the row clean, meaning that even if the DP was reenacted, it would likely be a decade if not two before another execution in California was likely. (Although I guess some people think that is already true now, even with hundreds on the row...)

Posted by: Anon | Nov 2, 2012 4:19:06 PM

Grits --

Hey, did the cops pull their tasers on you again? Oh...wait...
http://www.statesman.com/news/news/local/police-video-contradicts-bloggers-account-of-taser/nRkZg/

"I'd asserted above that the alleged polling you referenced regarding Prop 19 - certainly at a comparable point just prior to election day - didn't exist, and that the premise of your first comment on this string was BS."

Yes, that is what you asserted. Here's what Lou Cannon, writing on that nest of right-wingers, the Huffington Post, asserted, two years ago (emphasis added):

"A landmark California initiative that would legalize marijuana and allow local governments to tax drug proceeds is coming under fire from many sides these days, including some advocates of medical marijuana use.

DESPITE LEADING IN THREE OF FOUR PUBLIC OPINION SURVEYS, the fate of Proposition 19 on the November ballot remains up in the air. The initiative, billed by its advocates as a "common sense" approach to marijuana control, appeared to be sailing to victory in late September when the venerable Field Poll found it leading by 7 percentage points among likely voters. Since then, however, Proposition 19 has experienced a series of setbacks -- last week a survey by Reuters/Ipsos, with a much smaller sampling than the Field Poll, found the initiative trailing."

http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/10/14/legalized-marijuana-in-california-now-a-close-call/

I'll take the three of four, you can have the one. You can have your made-up taser attack, too. BTW, many here will remember that Doug put up more than one Prop 19 poll saying that it was winning.

"You ignored it, naturally, because you prefer to debate red herrings."

No, Grits, the reason I ignored it is that you're a thoroughly unpleasant, bitter man, an extremist, and a liar.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 2, 2012 5:24:32 PM

P.S.

And then there is this, also from October 2010:

"All polling of Prop 19 has a remarkably high level of consistency. All pollsters have found the yes vote leading the no vote by a margin of 7 to 11 percentage points and have found the percentage of people committed to vote yes to be right around 50. This is critical because with the high level of media attention about Prop 19, the assumption is that most people who are still undecided about it right before they vote will tend break towards no."

http://elections.firedoglake.com/2010/10/04/prop-19-gains-slightly-in-latest-poll-winning-48-41/

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 2, 2012 5:46:01 PM

Awwww, Joe made a little funny. How cute. Of course, Joe, you realize that imposing the death penalty on a murderer who happens to murder someone whose family opposes the death penalty isn't really a huge moral issue---the family probably shouldn't care any more about the killer than any other killer on death row. Yanking the rug out from under a family, as this legislation proposes, is pretty cruel. I would have hoped that I wouldn't have to explain that, but alas, Joe must crawl before he can walk.

Posted by: federalist | Nov 2, 2012 7:18:27 PM

As noted in the excerpt from the article quoted above, 53% of people polled now "have concluded that maintaining the death penalty is more expensive than keeping inmates in prison for the rest of their lives." That is a fact. The death penalty supporting crowd, however, is banking on ignorance. They're banking on people believing that LWOP is more expensive than death. That is an illusion.

Fact vs. Illusion --- which should prevail?

Posted by: Scarlett Rose | Nov 2, 2012 7:54:38 PM

Scarlett Rose --

"Fact vs. Illusion --- which should prevail?"

This is what should prevail:

http://www.crimeandconsequences.com/crimblog/2012/10/why-the-death-penalty-is-impor.html

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 2, 2012 9:26:01 PM

I prefer that the intended victim of a violent crime almost all the time stops the attack with all legal force necessary , including the lawful death of the predator if it be necessary .

▼ A predator’s death avoids the risk of ▼
Identity error .
Anxiety of plea deals .
Stress at trial .
A wrongful conviction.
Propagation if the predator is fertile.

A plus benefit is that consistent swift decisive action against predators tends to evolve to wisdom on the street .

IF neighborhood statistics show that 99.44% of predators who attempted dangerous violent attacks died while being lawfully stopped , THEN I suggest that future predators would avoid the assumption of risk and avoid that neighborhood .

Variation on a theme: “The tree of liberty is fed by the blood of predators who bleed out before their targets become victims.”

Posted by: Anon. #3.14159 | Nov 3, 2012 7:19:06 AM

@Scarlett Rose
Agreeing that the death penalty is expensive is not the same as supporting repeal. Similarly, the fact that 25-to-life is cheaper than LWOP is not an effective argument to do away with natural life sentences.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Nov 4, 2012 2:31:51 PM

Anon. #3.14159: \ I suggest that future predators would avoid the assumption of risk /

I think I concur.
Aside from a deterrent effect,
the justice mandate demands
the proportional punishment
of death.

Posted by: Adamakis | Nov 4, 2012 3:08:44 PM

http://www.change.org/petitions/forever-fighting-in-memory-of-michael-lyons

I agree, Rhoades doesn't deserve to be executed. The state should not kill him. Rather, he should spend his life in the general prison population. I trust those guys to get the job done.

Posted by: federalist | Nov 4, 2012 6:50:51 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB