Public Opinion About the Death Penalty

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Poll Shows Growing Support for Alternatives to the Death Penalty; Capital Punishment Ranked Lowest Among Budget Priorities

Unfairness, high costs, victims’ needs, and innocence are important to voters’ thinking about the death penalty

(See also this poll broken out by Catholic respondents, compared to the country as a whole.  Catholics showed stronger support for alternatives to the death penalty.)

(Nov. 16, 2010, Washington, D.C.)  The Death Penalty Information Center released the results of one of the most comprehensive studies ever conducted of Americans’ views on the death penalty. A national poll of 1,500 registered voters conducted by Lake Research Partners shows growing support for alternatives to the death penalty compared with previous polls. A clear majority of voters (61%) would choose a punishment other than the death penalty for murder, including life with no possibility of parole and with restitution to the victim’s family (39%), life with no possibility of parole (13%), or life with the possibility of parole (9%).

In states with the death penalty, a plurality of voters said it would make no difference in their vote if a representative supported repeal of the death penalty; and a majority (62%) said either it would make no difference (38%) or they would be more likely to vote for such a representative (24%).


Smart on Crime: Reconsidering the Death Penalty in a Time of Economic Crisis (2009)  The nation’s police chiefs rank the death penalty last in their priorities for effective crime reduction. The officers do not believe the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder, and they rate it as one of most inefficient uses of taxpayer dollars in fighting crime. Criminologists concur that the death penalty does not effectively reduce the number of murders.

A Crisis of Confidence: Americans' Doubts About the Death Penalty. Because of mistakes and a lack of efficacy, the death penalty is losing the confidence of the American public, according to a new poll by RT Strategies. Almost 40% of the U.S. population believe they would be excluded as jurors in capital cases and a strong majority (58%) believe it is time for a moratorium on the death penalty while the process undergoes a careful review. The poll was commissioned by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) (June 9, 2007).




On the Front Line: Law Enforcement Views on the Death Penalty - A 1995 Hart Research Poll of police chiefs in the U.S. found that the majority of the chiefs do not believe that the death penalty is an effective law enforcement tool.


Sentencing for Life: Americans Embrace Alternatives to the Death Penalty - Public support for the death penalty drops to below 50 percent when voters are offered alternative sentences. More people would support life without parole plus restituion to the victim's family than would choose the death penalty (1993).