Support for Death Penalty Declines to 40-Year Low


Public support for the death penalty in America has fallen to near historic lows, according to recent polls by Pew Research Center and CBS News.

Both polls reported that only a slim majority (56 percent) of Americans still support the death penalty.  That is the lowest level of support ever recorded by the CBS News poll, and it reflects a decline of 6 percent since 2011.  Support has fallen markedly since the 1980s and 1990s, when 70 percent or more agreed with capital punishment.

Pew surveyed 1500 adults across the country and found an especially sharp decline in support for the death penalty among Democrats.  Pew found 40 percent of Democrats now support the death penalty, down from 71 percent in 1996.  Only 25 percent of Democrats opposed capital punishment in 1996, but 56 percent oppose it today.

Most Americans (71 percent) said there is some risk that an innocent person will be put to death, and only a quarter (26 percent) said there are adequate safeguards to prevent that.

A majority (61 percent) said the death penalty does not deter people from committing serious crimes, and about half (52 percent) said that minorities are more likely than whites to be sentenced to death for similar crimes.