According to a new report and opinion poll issued today by the Death Penalty Information Center, the American public is losing confidence in the death penalty as doubts about innocence and the purpose of capital punishment increase. The report, A Crisis of Confidence: Americans’ Doubts About the Death Penalty, is based on a recent national opinion poll conducted by RT Strategies and commissioned by DPIC.

“Public confidence in the death penalty has clearly eroded over the past 10 years, mostly as a result of DNA exonerations. Whether it is concern about executing the innocent, beliefs that the death penalty is not a deterrent, moral objections to taking human life, or a general sense that the system is too broken to be fixed, the bottom line is the same: Americans are moving away from the death penalty,” said Richard Dieter, DPIC’s Executive Director.

Key poll findings include:

  • Almost 40% of the public believe that they would be disqualified from serving on a jury in a death penalty case because of their moral beliefs. Among sub-groups such as women, African-Americans, and Catholics, the percentage who believe they would be excluded is even higher. These findings raise serious questions about whether defendants are being judged by “a jury of their peers.”
  • A significant majority (58%) believe it is time for a moratorium on the death penalty while the process undergoes a careful review.
  • An overwhelming 69% of the public believes that reforms will not eliminate all wrongful convictions and executions.
  • Almost all Americans (87%) believe that an innocent person has already been executed in recent years, and over half (55%) say that fact has affected their views on the death penalty.
  • Among those who had changed their position on the death penalty over the last ten years, more people became opponents of the death penalty than proponents by a margin of 3 to 2. Support has been lessened because of the many DNA exonerations that have occurred.

The poll sample included 1,000 adults nationwide and the margin of error was +3.1%.
(Posted June 9, 2007). Read the Report and Press Release. See also Reports, Innocence, and Public Opinion.