New Poll Shows Declining Support For Capital Punishment


A national poll of 1500 registered voters shows a clear majority (61%) prefer a punishment other than the death penalty for murder. In recent years, about 50% of Americans preferred life imprisonment without parole to the death penalty when asked to make a choice. The new data suggests support for capital punishment may be declining. Respondents expressed many reservations about the death penalty, including cost, unfair application, and the risk of executing an innocent person.

Conducted in May 2010 by Lake Research Partners and released last week by the Death Penalty Information Center, the poll shows that, in states with the death penalty, a plurality of voters said it would make no difference in their vote if a representative supported repeal of the death penalty; and a majority (62%) said either it would make no difference or they would be more likely to vote for such a representative.

“We see a real openness to considering life with no possibility for parole as a punishment for murder and a real awareness among Americans of the many problems with the death penalty. It is likely we will see Americans moving away from support for the death penalty as states and local governments grapple with tight budgets and as today’s younger voters and Latinos move into the core of the electorate,” said pollster Celinda Lake.

Voters ranked emergency services, creating jobs, police and crime prevention, schools and libraries, public health care services, and roads and transportation as more important budget priorities than the death penalty. A majority of respondents (65%) would favor life without parole over the death penalty if the money saved were used to fund crime prevention programs.

Since the start of 2009, many states, such as Maryland, Colorado, Connecticut, Montana, and Kansas, considered legislation to repeal the death penalty (and New Mexico passed legislation repealing the death penalty), and it is expected that trend will continue in 2011.