As support for the death penalty has waxed and waned over the years, the views of the major U.S. political parties, as reflected in their national convention platforms, has changed. To track those changes, DPIC has created a new resource presenting the Democratic and Republican party platform positions on crime and the death penalty from 1960 to 2016. With the most recent views of both the Republican and Democratic parties expressed in their 2016 platforms, the new page now reflects changing views on the death penalty throughout the modern era of capital punishment, as well as in the decade leading up to the Supreme Court’s 1972 decision in Furman v. Georgia striking down death penalty laws across the country. This year, the Republican party platform “condemn[s]” the U.S. Supreme Court for what the platform calls the “erosion of the right of the people to enact capital punishment.” The draft of the Democratic party convention, expected to be adopted July 25, calls for abolition of the death penalty, which it says “has no place in the United States of America.” To provide context for the changing platforms, the page provides public opinion data on the death penalty from Gallup polling since 1960, and opinion by party affiliation since Gallup first began providing that information in 1988. Alongside that data, it includes an Index of Death Penalty Public Opinion developed by Professor Frank Baumgartner at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. (Click image to enlarge.)

Neither party specifically referenced the death penalty from 1960 to 1972, until the Democrats, shortly after the issuance of the Furman decision, called for abolition. The first Republican platform in this period to discuss capital punishment was in 1976, when it stated, “Each state should have the power to decide whether it wishes to impose the death penalty for certain crimes.” While the Republican party has consistently maintained its support for the death penalty, including a call for the reinstatement of the federal death penalty in 1988, the stance of the Democratic party has varied. After leaving the death penalty out of its platform for 20 years, Democrats promoted the expansion of the death penalty in 1996 and 2000, stated it “must not be arbitrary” in 2008 and 2012, and this year, as support for the death penalty among Democrats at large continued to fall, returned to its stance of 44 years ago, supporting the abolition of capital punishment.

(Posted by DPIC, July 22, 2016.) See Public Opinion.