PUBLIC OPINION: American Values Survey Shows Even Split on Death Penalty, with More Catholics Opposed

According to the 2012 American Values Survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, Americans are now evenly divided on whether the death penalty or life without parole is the appropriate punishment for murder, while Catholics more strongly favor life sentences. The September survey found that 47% of respondents favored life without parole, while 46% opted for the death penalty.  The poll showed that life without parole was favored by Democrats (57%), African-Americans (64%), Hispanic-Americans (56%), and millennials (age 18 to 29) (55%). Support for the death penalty was stronger among Republicans (59%), Tea Party members (61%), and white Americans (53%).  Catholic respondents favored life without parole by a greater margin (52% to 41%) than the general population. Moreover, Catholics who attended church at least once a week were even more opposed to the death penalty (57% to 37% favoring life without parole) than those who attended less frequently.

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PUBLIC OPINION: New Poll Shows Dramatic Jump in Support of Repealing California's Death Penalty

A new Los Angeles Times poll of registered voters in California showed a dramatic increase in support of Proposition 34, a ballot measure that would replace the death penalty with life without parole, saving the state tens of millions of dollars annually. The survey, conducted October 15-21, showed more respondents supporting repeal of the death penalty (45%) than those wanting to keep it (42%) when they were given information about the measure's financial impact and effect on prisoners. Eleven percent were undecided.  These results were an exact reversal of the Times earlier poll that showed more voters opposing the Proposition. Both this poll and the earlier poll also asked voters about Proposition 34 without including its financial impact.  Although slightly more respondents opposed repeal with this shorter question, the gap between opponents and supporters shrunk from 13% in September, to a statistical tie in October (45% to 42%). The margin of error for the poll was 2.9%.  The most recent poll was taken before a flurry of TV ads in support of Proposition 34 began running in the state.  According to California's legislative analyst, passage of Proposition 34 would save the state $130 million per year. Although California has the largest death row in the country, it has not carried out an execution in almost 7 years, and has executed 13 inmates since 1978.

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PUBLIC OPINION: Public Finds Death Penalty Less Morally Acceptable in New Gallup Survey

GallupMoral2Gallup recently released its Values and Beliefs survey regarding American moral views on a variety of social issues.  The results revealed a significant decline in the percentage of the public that finds the death penalty "morally acceptable."  This year, only 58% of respondents said the death penalty is morally acceptable, down from 65% last year. (Click on graph to enlarge.)  This marks the lowest approval rating for capital punishment since this survey was first administered 12 years ago. Among Democrats, only 42% found the death penalty morally acceptable.  Generally, support for the death penalty falls below 50% when the public is offered alternative punishments.  In 2010, Gallup asked which is the better punishment for murder: the death penalty or life in prison without parole?  Less than half (49%) chose the death penalty, while 46% chose life without parole.

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