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July 22, 2010

New poll shows support for death penalty still very strong even in blue California

This local news report, headlined "Death penalty still gets overwhelming support: 70% of voters favor it, split when given choice," highlights that the nation's biggest state still has a big number of people supportive of the death penalty. Here are specifics:

California voters still strongly support the death penalty, but they are almost evenly split when there’s a choice of sentencing a first-degree murder to life without parole or death, according to a new Field Poll. The nonpartisan survey shows that seven in 10 voters favor capital punishment.

Given the option, 42 percent would prefer life in prison without parole for a murder, 41 percent would choose the death penalty, 13 percent say it depends on the situation and 4 percent had no opinion. “Voters may want to keep the death penalty, but some may want to apply it in only the very heinous crimes,” said Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo.

The poll may send a signal to some campaign strategists that candidates could be vulnerable on the issue, depending on how they frame tough-on-crime images, DiCamillo said. In the race for governor, Democrat Jerry Brown , a former governor and current state’s attorney general, is personally opposed to capital punishment but says he will follow the law. Republican Meg Whitman supports capital punishment.

Voters who support Brown endorse the death penalty 60 percent to 34 percent. Whitman’s followers favor it nearly 81 percent to 16 percent, according to the Field Poll.

The race to replace Brown as attorney general features two district attorneys at opposite ends of the state and political spectrum on this issue. Democrat Kamala Harris of San Francisco has come under fire for not pursuing the death penalty. She opposes capital punishment, but says she would enforce the law if elected. Republican District Attorney Steve Cooley of Los Angeles has argued for death sentences....

In the U.S. Senate race, both incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer and Republican challenger Carly Fiorina say they back the death penalty....

Surveys conducted before 2002 asked adults, not just voters. In 1956, the spread was 49 percent to 29 percent in favor. In 1986, capital punishment was endorsed by 83 percent — tied for the highest recorded level. And in 2006, the margin was 67 percent to 29 percent. After 1977, the lowest amount of support came in 2000, at 63 percent.

I would love to see a poll like this include some questions that probe what voters actually know about the operation of the death penalty in California and elsewhere.  Specifically, I wonder how many of the persons polled know that California has the largest death row in the nation and yet has had lethal injection litigation keeping anyone from being executed for nearly five years now.

July 22, 2010 at 11:02 AM | Permalink


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Almost all of this poll is consistent with past polls both in California and nationwide. Support runs between 2/3 and 3/4 on the generic question. When the badly worded question implying that one must choose a single punishment for all murderers is asked, those who stick to the options offered split down the middle, but a substantial number break out and volunteer the answer consistent with current law -- "it depends." Basic polling science tells us that real support for an answer is much higher than the number of people willing to break out.

The really striking result here is the sharp reduction in the racial gap. Support on the general question is 70-24 overall and 63-28 among African-Americans. I don't believe I have ever seen the racial gap that small before.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Jul 22, 2010 12:22:47 PM

Having read more about the Franklin cover up an issue much brought ot the public's attention through books and media, I am convinced that the death penalty is the only punishment appropriate and when crime involves children such as this one does and so destructively and cold bloodedly what else, but to demand the death penalty for those who would treat children so horribly without any respect or feeling and that is putting it lightly! No there is no excuse of this hateful blatant lack of reguard for life! No defence for it and these so called adults -sick or not, must not be let off with a simple slap on the wrist nor mere life in prison. That will not do for taking an innocent child and destroying their childhood, their all! The ultimate price for such crime must come back to justice as it once was and that is the death penalty handed down by a FAIR trial! Special consideration should be remembered for the victims that are frightened and very tramatized children which I find lacking in the courts through accounts recorded in media. Testimony from the child should be given exceptional consideration by the judge not measured by the template of rational adult victims who act diffrently having been tramatized, but no adult victim was ever treated this way as these children have been in this case that has yet to be truely decided and fairly! I am appauled at this nation and the adults we call representitive in our government! Talk about falling from grace! It is disgusting and nausiating that no justice have truely take up the reins of this miserable horror of crime! And I know when our justice system does come to its sences and offer up the highest level quality of justice to throw the book at these criminals responsible for this horrific crime against humanity and the children involved, then and only then will I ever believe again in our nation as the so called greatest country in the world -that it once was! Right now it is a decaying mess that can't bring forth a crumb's worth of justice for a jay walker! Let alone the most obcene and unspeakable crimes such as this "Franklin cover up" has so displayed and festered like a giant boil full of infection! Reinstate the death penalty for these pedifiles and human trafficers and do it now! That is all! Then people will think before they sceme to break the law here in America!

Posted by: tjc | Jul 26, 2010 3:18:57 AM

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