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October 29, 2013

Latest Gallup poll indicated slight decrease in (still strong) support for death penalty

9wi_7f0xre2310vq41iq7qAs reported in this new Gallup page, which is headlined "U.S. Death Penalty Support Lowest in More Than 40 Years: Sixty percent of Americans favor death penalty for convicted murderers," new polling data provides an array of mixed messages concerning public opinion regarding the death penalty.  Here are the basic details of the latest polling data:

Sixty percent of Americans say they favor the death penalty for convicted murderers, the lowest level of support Gallup has measured since November 1972, when 57% were in favor.  Death penalty support peaked at 80% in 1994, but it has gradually declined since then.

Gallup first asked Americans their views on the death penalty using this question in 1936, and has updated it periodically since then, including annual updates since 1999.

Americans have typically favored the death penalty; in fact, support has exceeded opposition in all but one survey, conducted in May 1966, during an era marked by philosophical and legal challenges to the death penalty from the mid-1950s through the early 1970s.  Americans' support for the death penalty waned during that time. The culmination of that era was the Supreme Court's 1972 Furman v. Georgia decision, which invalidated all state death penalty statutes on technical grounds but stopped short of declaring the practice itself unconstitutional.  Four years later, the court ruled that several newly written death penalty laws were constitutional, and executions resumed in the U.S. shortly thereafter.

From then until the mid-'90s, death penalty support climbed, reaching 80% in 1994, a year in which Americans consistently named crime as the most important problem facing the United States.

The current era of lower support may be tied to death penalty moratoriums in several states beginning around 2000 after several death-row inmates were later proven innocent of the crimes of which they were convicted.  More recently, since 2006, six states have repealed death penalty laws outright, including Maryland this year.

Politics is a major dividing line in Americans' death penalty views -- 81% of Republicans currently favor it, compared with 47% of Democrats. Independents' 60% support matches the national average.

Support among all three party groups has declined in the last 25 years, with the largest drop among Democrats.  Democrats' level of support is currently down 28 percentage points from its 1994 peak and has fluctuated around the 50% mark for the last several years. Independents' support has generally been in the 60% range since 2000, but was consistently above 70% from the late 1980s through 1999. Republicans' support has averaged 80% since 2000, but averaged a higher 85% from 1988-1999....

A separate question asking about the frequency of use of the death penalty finds 44% of Americans saying the death penalty in the U.S. is not imposed often enough -- rather than too often or the right amount of time.  Americans have always been most likely to say the death penalty is not imposed often enough, consistent with their generally favoring the death penalty.  However, the current percentage holding that view is among the lowest Gallup has measured.  Exactly half as many, 22%, believe the death penalty is imposed too often....

Gallup's nearly 80-year history of measuring death penalty attitudes shows that Americans generally favor the practice, but there have been distinct eras of higher or lower support. And state and federal laws, as well as legal rulings, have tended to move in concert with public opinion.  Support is now the lowest in four decades, and a growing number of states have taken action to abolish the death penalty.

October 29, 2013 at 06:41 PM | Permalink


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This reminds me of a polling themed subplot on West Wing -- also important is intensity. The intensity is low in various places, which helps explain why there is so little ultimate reaction -- other than some grumblings -- with so many delays and so few (single digits even in a place like Florida) actual executions in most states. The public strongly likes the idea of the death penalty, much fewer are strongly concerned with them actually being carried out.

Posted by: Joe | Oct 30, 2013 11:44:05 AM

Gallup: | "Americans have always been most likely to say the death penalty is not imposed often enough |

[currently 2x as likely]

Does this just about say it all?

Posted by: Adamakis | Oct 30, 2013 2:58:32 PM

We are the only species on Earth that judges and kills its own. Then if we have a dog it is Good Dog or Bad Dog! all day long. Judge, judge, judge until you are Judy. If cows could they would give Milnot. If humans could read or listen they would adhere to the Sixth Commandment and cease killing other humans in the name of the father, the son and the holy spirit. Amen. And why do they have some Priest come in and give communion to some poor schmuck they are about to kill. And why do they use bogus words like "execute" instead of the word "kill"?

Posted by: Liberty1st | Nov 2, 2013 3:53:01 AM

Ever see a bear robbed of her whelp?
She judges without a jury and executes without appeal.

I'm trying not to be too harsh, but your words display
stupefying ignorance and misappropriation of Scripture, and of Science. [see Titus 2:1 Prov 17:12]

Posted by: Adamakis | Nov 4, 2013 9:53:23 AM

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