PUBLIC OPINION: Polling Reveals Only a Minority of Americans Supports Execution of Juvenile Offenders

A series of public opinion polls reveals that only about a third of Americans support the death penalty as applied to those who are under the age of 18 at the time of their crime. Recent survey results include the following:
  • A fall 2001 National Opinion Research Center poll found that while 62% of respondents favored the death penalty in general, only 34% supported the execution of juvenile offenders. In a series of follow-up questions that further probed respondents about their positions, it was determined that the opposition to the juvenile death penalty is firmer (89.5% of respondents did not change their position) than support for the death penalty generally (67% unchanged after follow-up questions).
  • A similar 2001 poll conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates revealed that while 72% of those polled supported the death penalty, only 38% supported it when applied to "juveniles younger than 18."
  • A May 2002 Gallup poll found 72% support for capital punishment in general, but that support dropped to 26% for juveniles convicted of murder, 19% for the mentally ill, and 13% for the mentally retarded.
  • (Tom W. Smith, Director of the General Social Survey, National Opinion Research Center, Chicago Tribune, December 7, 2003) See Public Opinion, Juveniles.