POLL: Majority of Oklahomans Favor Replacing Death Penalty With Life Without Parole Plus Restitution
A majority of Oklahoma voters favor abolition of the death penalty if it is replaced with a sentence of life without parole plus restitution, according to a new poll commissioned by News 9/News on 6. The survey by the non-partisan SoonerPoll.com found that 52.4% of Oklahomans would support abolition of the death penalty if the state replaced its system of capital punishment with the alternative sanction of life without parole, plus a requirement that the inmates pay restitution to victims' families. Nearly a third of respondents (30.5%) said they would "strongly support" abolition if this alternative punishment option were offered. The gap between support for replacing the death penalty versus retaining it as is was more than 18 percentage points, with 34.0% of respondents saying they would oppose abolition. A poll commissioned by The Oklahoman in October that asked the general question whether Oklahomans supported or opposed the death penalty reported that 67% of Oklahomans expressed support for the death penalty, down from 74% support reported in a 2014 poll by the Tulsa World. The Oklahoman poll showed that, at the same time, half of Oklahomans favored a moratorium on the state's death penalty. “A lot of people are in support of the death penalty right now, because they were never given an alternative,” said Bill Shapard, founder of SoonerPoll.com. “Right now the death penalty is really the only alternative to those who have committed some of the worst crimes in our society. But yet, now we are given an alternative, people are open to that.” The results of the Oklahoma polls are consistent with national polls, which find that respondents say they support the death penalty in the abstract, but prefer life without parole over the death penalty when offered a choice between the two.
The most recent polls polls have been conducted against the backdrop of ongoing investigations into a series of irregularities in recent Oklahoma executions. Oklahoma corrections officials violated the state's execution protocols in the botched execution of Clayton Lockett, in executing Charles Warner using a drug that was not authorized in its protocol, and in the failed execution of Richard Glossip, which was called off at the last minute when prison officials realized they had obtained the wrong execution drug.
("WEB EXCLUSIVE POLL: More Oklahomans Oppose Death Penalty If Given Alternative," News9, November 18, 2015; G. Brewer, "New poll shows more than half of Oklahomans support life sentences over the death penalty," The Oklahoman, Nov. 20, 2015; G. Brewer, "Oklahomans give overwhelming support to death penalty, poll finds," The Oklahoman, Oct. 26, 2015.) See Public Opinion.