American Support for Death Penalty Drops to 40-Year Low

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Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Oct. 29 2013 8:16 PM

American Support for Death Penalty Drops to 40-Year Low

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Demonstrators protesting against the death penalty.

Photo by DANI POZO/AFP/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Gallup released a poll showing American support for the death penalty had dropped to a 40-year low. A 60% majority of Americans said they were in favor of the death penalty for convicted murders, marking the lowest level of support since 1972. The country was most supportive of capital punishment in 1994 with 80% support, but those levels have declined gradually over the past 20 years.

Gallup found that political affiliation was an indicator of death penalty views, with 81% of Republicans in favor of it, 60% of Independents, and 47% of Democrats. Support for the death penalty among all three groups, however, has fallen over the last 25 years. The latest poll reaffirms that American have been, and largely still are, in favor of the death penalty. In fact, Gallup points out that’s been the case in every poll but one that it's conducted on the topic since it began questioning Americans’ death penalty views in 1936:

“[S]upport 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.”

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.

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