PUBLIC OPINION: Support for Death Penalty in California Lowest in 50 Years

(Click to enlarge graph) A Field Poll of voters in California found that support for capital punishment has reached its lowest level since 1965. Only 56% of respondents said they favored keeping the death penalty, down from 69% in 2011. Support for the death penalty among Californians peaked in the mid-1980s at 83%. Some of the strongest opposition to keeping the death penalty came from voters under 30, African Americans, and Democrats. Daisy Vieyra, a spokesperson for the ACLU of Northern California, said support for capital punishment has declined because, “The public is becoming more aware of all the flaws that riddle the system.” In 2012, a referendum to replace California’s death penalty with life without parole almost passed, coming up short in a 52-48% vote.

The poll also asked “What should California do in light of a federal judge’s ruling that California’s death penalty is unconstitutional because it takes so long for the state to carry out an execution?” Voters were closely split, with 52% saying the process should be speeded up and 40% saying the death penalty should be replaced with life without parole.

(H. Mintz, “Poll: Support of death penalty in California slipping,” San Jose Mercury News, September 12, 2014). See Public Opinion and California.