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.

(M. Dolan and J. Leonard, “Support for end to California death penalty surges,” Los Angeles Times, October 26, 2012). See Public Opinion and Recent Legislative Activity.