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November 16, 2022

Latest Gallup polling highlights "Steady 55% of Americans Support Death Penalty for Murderers"

Republicans-remain-most-supportive-of-death-penaltyThe quoted portion of the title of this post is the title of this recent Gallup report on its latest polling on opinions regarding the death penalty.  Here are excerpts:

The majority of Americans, 55%, are in favor of the death penalty for convicted murderers in the U.S. While this marks the sixth consecutive year that support for capital punishment is between 54% and 56%, it is below the 60% to 80% readings recorded in the four prior decades between 1976 and 2016.

When Gallup initiated this measure in 1936, 59% of U.S. adults favored the death penalty for convicted murderers -- and majorities have supported it since then, with the exception of several readings taken between 1957 and March 1972, including the record-low 42% in 1966.

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional in June 1972, majorities continued to back it. When it was reinstated in 1976, public support for it grew until it peaked at 80% in 1994. At least 60% of U.S. adults favored capital punishment until 2017, when support dipped to the lowest point since 1972, and today it remains at that level.

The latest findings are from an Oct. 3-20 Gallup poll that was conducted during the trial of the gunman who murdered 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018.  On Oct. 13, the jury in the highly publicized trial spared him the death penalty and instead sentenced him to prison for the rest of his life. The decision was met with disappointment from many of the victims' families, who thought the gunman should be put to death.

Partisans' views of the death penalty differ sharply, with majorities of Republicans (77%) and independents (54%) favoring it but a majority of Democrats opposed (63%) and 35% in favor.

Since 2000, when Gallup began tracking the measure annually in its Crime survey, Republicans' support has been the most consistent. No less than 72% of Republicans have been in favor of the death penalty, and the latest reading is not statistically different from the 2000 reading of 80%.

Over the same period, independents' support has been as high as 68% and has only once fallen below the majority level (to 49% in 2020). The current reading is down 14 percentage points compared with 2000.

Democrats' support for capital punishment has not been at the majority level since 2012 and has varied the most of the three party groups, ranging from 34% to 65% since 2000. Democrats' latest reading is essentially unchanged from last year's record low for them and is 21 points lower than the 2000 reading.

November 16, 2022 at 09:48 AM | Permalink


These public opinion surveys about the death penalty have very limited value, because they do not reflect the behavior and voting of jurors in capital cases that get tried. Here in Kentucky, a fundamentalist Baptist state, public opinion surveys have shown support for the death penalty of up to 67%. Yet, in 2009, for example, there were 106 death qualified juries seated (cases where the jury could have imposed the death penalty), but out of 106 cases, the jury voted for the death penalty on 0 cases. That's right, ZERO cases; and some of those cases involved truly heinous misconduct, such as the rape and strangulation of a 5-year old boy by a 50ish man. The explanation is that it is easy to say how one feels about the death penalty in a public opinion survey, but everything changes when one sits as a juror and has to look another person in the eye in a courtroom and sat, "Kill Him!". Kentucky has only executed 5 people since 1953, and 2 out of the last 3 executed withdrew their appeals and demanded that the sentence be carried out. Presently, there are about 26 inmates on death row in Kentucky, but they are much more likely to die of natural causes than they are to actually be executed. About 50% of all death sentences in Kentucky are reversed on appeal or habeas corpus.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Nov 16, 2022 10:10:30 AM

The last execution in Kentucky was of Marco Allen Chapman on November 21, 2008, 14 years ago this month.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Nov 16, 2022 10:16:58 AM

Upshot: The long erosion of support for the DP has come to a complete stop. And it stops with clear majority supporting it, at a level (55%) that Joe Biden (or Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis) would dearly love to get.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 17, 2022 10:37:44 AM

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