Polls: Death Penalty Support Remains Near 50-Year Low Despite Record-High Perception that Crime Has Increased

Posted on Nov 15, 2022

Two national polls have found that support for capital punishment in the United States remains near half-century lows despite record-high perception that local crime has increased.

The 2022 Crime Survey by Gallup, administered between October 3–20, 2022 against the backdrop of the Parkland school shooting trial, reported support for capital punishment held steady at 55%, one percentage point above the 50-year low of 54% in 2021. Gallup has measured support for capital punishment at between 54%-56% for each of the past six years. 42% of respondents told Gallup they oppose the death penalty, one percentage-point below 2021’s 50-year high.

Support for capital punishment, which historically had tracked Americans’ fear of crime, did not materially rise despite the largest increase in fifty years in the number of U.S. adults who report that crime is up in the area in which they live. The spike in perceived crime was fueled primarily by a surge in fear among those identifying as Republicans, whose perception that local crime is rising increased from 38% in the final year of the Trump presidency to 73% at the approach of Biden midterm elections. Nationally, 56% of Americans told Gallup that local crime was up.

Gallup released the crime data October 28, 2022 and the death penalty data November 14, 2022.

A second national poll, this one by Rasmussen Reports, found that fewer than half of American adults now support the death penalty. The Rasmussen poll, conducted in a telephone and online survey October 16–17, 2022 and released November 10, 2022, found that 46% of respondents who were asked “Do you favor or oppose the death penalty?” said they favor capital punishment. Twenty-eight percent of respondents told Rasmussen they oppose the death penalty and 26% said they weren’t sure.

The survey — also administered at the height of the American mid-term elections during a barrage of advertising that attempted to stoke voters’ fear of violent crime — nevertheless recorded a continuing decline in expressed support for capital punishment. Those saying they favored the death penalty fell by 17 percentage points from the 63% who favored capital punishment in Rasmussen’s June 2011 national survey. Death penalty support also fell by three percentage points from July 2019, when 49% of respondents told Rasmussen they favored the death penalty.

Rasmussen also asked death penalty supporters two follow-up questions related to the perceived length of time capital cases remain in the legal system. Nearly two thirds of death penalty supporters (64%) said they “favor carrying out death sentences in a more timely fashion.” 29% of those favoring the death penalty agreed with the statement that a “death sentence should be delayed as long as necessary to allow all legal appeals to be exhausted.” 7% said they weren’t sure.

A Death Penalty Information Center study of death-row exonerations found that, on average, it takes the court system more than a decade to free a former death-row prisoner from a wrongful capital conviction. Nearly one in five death-row exonerations took two decades or more. The average time between wrongful capital conviction and exoneration has increased each decade since the 1970s, reaching more than 20 years in the 2010s and surpassing 25 years for exonerations so far in the 2020s.

Death penalty supporters were also asked if they believed their state carried out executions in a timely manner. 50% of death penalty supporters said no; 16% said yes; and 34% said they weren’t sure.


Megan Brennan, Steady 55% of Americans Support Death Penalty for Murderers, Gallup News, November 14, 2022; Less Than Half of Americans Support Death Penalty, Rasmussen Reports, November 10, 2022; Theodore Bunker, Poll: Less Than Half of Americans Support Capital Punishment, Newsmax, November 10, 2022; Megan Brennan, Record-High 56% in U.S. Perceive Local Crime Has Increased, Gallup News, October 282022.