Gallup 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.

This survey is different from the annual poll measuring death penalty support regardless of moral values. In its general 2011 survey, Gallup found 61% of respondents supported capital punishment, down from 80% support in 1994. The 2011 result marked the lowest level of support for the death penalty in 39 years. Results for the Values and Beliefs Gallup poll were based on 1,024 telephone interviews conducted May 3-6, 2012.

(F. Newport, “Americans, Including Catholics, Say Birth Control Is Morally OK,” Gallup, May 22, 2012). See Public Opinion.