Pew Poll Finds Majority Continue to Support Death Penalty

The Pew Research Center has released a new poll on the death penalty.

62% favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder while 31% are opposed. That is generally in line with polling on the death penalty over the past several years.

Of those who responded they oppose the death penalty, 27% said it's wrong or immoral and 27% said they were concerned about wrongful convictions. In the poll 20 years ago, 41% of those opposed based their objections on moral grounds and 11% of them objected due to the potential injustice of a wrongful conviction.

The reasons for those supporting the death penalty haven't changed in 20 years: [More...]

Roughly half (53%) say the punishment fits the crime or that it is what murderers deserve. A smaller share raises concerns about the costs of keeping murderers in prison for life (15%).

Relatively few death penalty supporters cite deterrence (6%) or keeping murderers from committing more crimes (5%) in explaining their position.

Not surprisingly, many more Republicans than Democrats support the death penalty. Just another reason not to elect Republicans. So long as their constituents favor executions, they have little impetus to change the law.

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    Everyone knows (5.00 / 3) (#3)
    by NYShooter on Fri Jan 06, 2012 at 03:55:15 PM EST
    that the manner in which questions are framed has an enormous effect on the responses. I'm not questioning the accuracy of this poll, but I'd be interested to see the results of a larger number of polls, each slanting the questions to one degree or another.

    My guess is that the simplest form of this question, "do you favor the death penalty for convicted murderers?" would elicit the largest number of knee jerk, emotional," Yes,"  answers. Even changing something as simple as, "convicted murderers," to "people found guilty by a jury of homicide," could sway the results somewhat.

    How about, "in light of the hundreds of convicted people found innocent through advancements in forensic science, do you support the death penalty, or would life without the possibility of parole be sufficient?"

    Or this one?: "Statistics show that rich people, who can afford the best lawyers, are acquitted much more than poor people who must accept underpaid, overworked, and often, inexperienced, public defenders. In light of that fact, and the fact that District Attorneys have unlimited money and power, do you feel that the death penalty, rather than life without the possibility of parole, is the appropriate action the State should take?"

    And so on.

    I'm not one of them. (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Chuck0 on Sat Jan 07, 2012 at 10:02:13 PM EST
    Shouldn't the US be just a little bit better than Saudi Arabia, Iran or North Korea in doling out punishment?

    I'm surprised that deterrence isn't (none / 0) (#1)
    by observed on Fri Jan 06, 2012 at 03:00:22 PM EST
    given as a more prominent reason to support the DP.
    I think that the cited reason---making the punishment fit the crime---is absolutely in line with traditional morality. In that sense, the poll result doesn't bother me. It means that one can appeal to the moral sense of these people, by giving them a reason that abolishing the DP would be a morally superior choice.

    I'm in a very small minority that prefers the DP for neinous crimes of business and bureacracy, because that is an arena where deterrence probably WOULD work.
    For example, a businessman who makes s decision to allow a certain additive in a food product, saving money while allowing a certain number of poeple to die, should absolutely be a candidate for the DP.

    Heh. That's what happens in China. (none / 0) (#4)
    by Mr Natural on Fri Jan 06, 2012 at 06:00:25 PM EST
    Here you'd have to prove a causal connection.  If it weren't something outrageous, like the Chinese entrepreneurs selling diethylene glycol contaminated glycerine to medicine manufacturers in 2005, you'd spend years and millions to make each case.

    Doubt that'll happen w/ the DP. (none / 0) (#6)
    by jpe on Sun Jan 08, 2012 at 07:47:30 AM EST
    Even in the EU, where it's been illegal for quite some time, large minorities and, in some cases (IIRC), majorities favor it.

    That the EU doesn't have the DP is more a failure of democracy than a triumph of enlightenment.