National Polls and Studies

Poll:
Date:

Issues:
Pew Research Center 2/14 Pew Poll Shows Drop in Death Penalty Support
Huffington Post 1/14 Americans Favor The Death Penalty, But Few Want The Executed To Suffer
Barna Group 1/14 Support for Death Penalty Low Among Christians
Gallup 10/13 60% approval rating for death penalty lowest since 1972
Gallup 1/13 U.S. Death Penalty Remains Near 40-Year Low at 63%
Pew Research Center 1/12 Support for Death Penalty at 62%, Near Low for Pew Research
CNN 10/11 Number who prefer death penalty on decline
Gallup 10/11 In U.S., Support for Death Penalty Falls to 39-Year Low
Rasmussen 09/11 60% Still Favor Death Penalty
CBS News / New York Times 09/11 American support for death penalty lowest in 20 years
Lake Research Partners (for DPIC) 11/10 Growing Support for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
Lake Research Partners (for DPIC) 11/10 Same poll as above: Catholic respondents compared to country
Rasmussen 06/10 Death Penalty Opinion Poll, National
Gallup 01/10 Aggregate of previous polls
Gallup 10/09 Death Penalty Support Steady
Gallup 10/08 Decline in Support for Death Penalty since 2007
Harris Interactive 3/08 Finds Decline in Support for Death Penalty
National Christain Poll.com 2/08 Christian Support of Death Penalty
PEW Forum 12/07 Death Penalty Support Declines Since 1994
Gallup 10/07 Death Penalty Support Steady
Death Penalty Information Center 6/07 Reasons for Declining Support of Death Penalty
Gallup 6/07 Less Support Among Whites and Blacks for Death Penalty
PEW Forum 3/07 Modest Decline in Death Penalty Support
Gallup 10/06 Death Penalty Support
Angus Reid Global Scan 7/06 U.S. Stable in Death Penalty Support
Gallup 6/06 Life Without Parole Support Growing
Angus Reid Global Scan 3/06 Majority in US Supports Death Penalty
Gallup 2/06 Comparing US, Great Britain and Canadian support
Gallup 10/05 Support for death penalty at lowest level in 27 years.
Gallup 5/05 support for death penalty remains the same
CBS 4/05 support evenly split over death penalty issues
WP/ABC News 4/05 support for death penalty stays below 70%
Fox News/Dynamics 4/05 support for death penalty remains low
Zogby 3/05 Rise in Catholic opposition to capital punishment
Criminology and Public Policy 2/05 innocence and the death penalty
Quinnipiac 12/04 declining support, support for Life Without Parole
Gallup Poll 10/04 declining support
Ayres McHenry 5/04 declining support
Gallup Poll 5/04 declining support, deterrent effects
Harris Poll 12/03 deterrence, declining support
ABC News 12/03 declining support for juvenile death penalty; sentencing for Lee Malvo in Virginia
Gallup Poll 10/03 declining support
Notre Dame Magazine Summer 2003 support for death penalty shaped by parish priest
Pew Research Center 7/24/03 declining support, juvenile death penalty, declining support among African-Americans, Hispanics, and Protestants
Fox News 7/03 declining support
Gallup Poll 5/03 support for death penalty, life without parole, wrongful executions (Read Gallup's Press Release)
ABCNews/Washington Post 1/24/03 life without parole, support for Gov. Ryan's clemency decision
Harris Poll 1/17/03 Support for Gov. Ryan's clemency decision
Harris Poll 11/02 levels of support for death penalty for Beltway Sniper suspects
Gallup Poll 10/02 declining support, life without parole
Gallup Poll 5/20/02 declining support for executing juveniles or those with mental retardation, support for life without parole
ABCNews.com 5/7/02 support for the death penalty remains low after terrorists attacks
Pew Research Center 3/02 support for the death penalty remains low after terrorists attacks
Zogby International 10/25-11/1/01 Catholic support for the death penalty is evenly divided
Gallup Poll 10/01 support for the death penalty remains low after terrorists attacks
Harris Poll 7/01 declining support, deterrence, wrongful executions
USA Today Poll 5/4/01 declining support, life without parole, wrongful executions
ABC News 5/01 moratorium, racial and economic disparities, declining support, life without parole
Reuters/Zogby 4/23-25/01 declining support, McVeigh execution, racial discrimination
Peter Hart Research 3/01 declining support, life without parole, moratorium, DNA testing, adequate representation
Gallup Poll 2/01 life without parole, wrongful executions, racial and economic disparities
National Law Journal/DecisionQuest 12/11/00 fairness, jurors, life without parole, wrongful convictions
Peter Hart Research/American Viewpoint 9/14/00 adequate representation, DNA testing, moratorium
Harris Poll 8/2/00 declining support, wrongful executions
NBC News/Wall Street Journal 7/27-28/00 fairness, moratorium
CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll 6/30/00 declining support, fairness, innocence, Texas's death penalty
Newsweek 6/1-2/00 DNA testing, innocence
Gallup Poll 3/30/00 DNA testing, innocence
Gallup Poll 2/24/00 declining support, life without parole, wrongful executions
Gallup Poll 2/8-9/00 economic disparity
ABCNEWS.com 1/19/00 declining support, life without parole
Gallup Poll 1/11/98 Americans favored life over death for Terry Nichols
CNN 1997 death penalty for Timothy McVeigh
Time and Newsweek 1997 deterrence, vengeance, racial disparity


NATIONAL POLLS


Pew Poll Shows Sharp Drop in Death Penalty Support (2/2014).

Support for the death penalty has fallen sharply by 23 percentage points since 1996, reaching its lowest level in almost two decades, according to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center. The 2013 poll also found a 10 point drop in just the last 2 years in respondents who say they "strongly favor" the death penalty, from 28% to 18%. The percentage of Americans who say they oppose the death penalty has risen to 37%. In 2011, Pew asked respondents about the reasons behind their views on the death penalty, finding that the top two reasons for opposition to capital punishment were the imperfect nature of the justice system and a belief that the death penalty is immoral. The drop in public support coincides with an overall decline in use of the death penalty during the same time period, with both death sentences and executions falling dramatically since the 1990s. Six states have repealed the death penalty in the last six years, and three governors have recently imposed moratoriums on executions.

(M. Lipka, "Support for death penalty drops among Americans," Pew Research Center, February 12, 2014).

 


Huffington Post (1/2014).
This poll found that 62 percent of Americans favor the death penalty for people who are convicted of murder, while only 26 % are opposed. That support crossed party lines -- 87 % of Republicans, 58 % of independents and 51 % of Democrats said that they were in favor of execution as a punishment for murder.

The survey found that lethal injection is the most favored method of execution among Americans by far, and the only one approved of by at least half of Americans. 54 % of respondents said that they approved of lethal injection as a method of execution, including 44 % of Democrats, 50 % of independents and 79 % of Republicans.

But a significant number of those polled said that just because a prisoner should be put to death doesn't mean he or she needs to suffer.

43 % of respondents said that execution methods should be as quick and painless as possible, while just 11 % wanted them to be as slow and painful as possible, and 8 % weren't sure. Another 38 % weren't asked the question because they said they were opposed to the death penalty, or they weren't sure if they were in favor of it or not.

 


Barna Group (1/2014): Support for Death Penalty Low Among Christians, Particularly Younger Members

A new poll by the Barna Group found that only 40% of practicing Christians supported the death penalty, and support was even lower among younger Christians. According to the poll released on January 17, only 23% of practicing Christian "millennials" (i.e., those born between 1980 and 2000) agreed with the statement: "The government should have the option to execute the worst criminals." Without regard to their regular practice of their faith, only 42% of Christian baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) and only 32% of millennials agreed with the use of the death penalty. Roxanne Stone, the vice president of publishing at Barna, said, "This parallels a growing trend in the pro-life conversation among Christians to include torture and the death penalty as well as abortion. For many younger Christians, the death penalty is not a political dividing point but a human rights issue." 

A 2011 Gallup poll also found Americans under 30 were more likely to oppose the death penalty than those over 30. The Barna Group poll surveyed 1,000 American adults and had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

(J. Merritt, "Poll: Younger Christians less supportive of death penalty," Religion News Service, January 18, 2014).


 

 

Gallup (10/2013)
This poll found the lowest level of support for the death penalty in America since 1972. Gallup's October poll measured Americans' abstract support at 60%, a 20-percentage point decline from 1994, when 80% of respondents were in favor of the death penalty for those convicted of murder. Support for the death penalty differed sharply among those who identified themselves with a political party: 81% of Republicans supported the death penalty, while only 47% of Democrats and 60% of Independents favored it. However, support among all three groups has dropped in the last 25 years, with the Democrats’ support declining 28 percentage points since its peak in 1994. This poll measured the public’s support for capital punishment in theory, without any comparison to other punishments. When Gallup and other polls have offered respondents a choice of the proper punishment for murder - the death penalty or life in prison without parole - respondents are about evenly split, with less than 50% supporting the death penalty. Gallup's release noted that the decline in support may be linked to the issue of innocence, "The current era of lower support may be tied to death penalty moratoriums in several states beginning around 2000 after several death-row inmates were later proven innocent of the crimes of which they were convicted." In the past 10 years, the percentage of Americans who believe the death penalty is applied fairly has dropped from 60% to 52%.

The poll was conducted between October 3-6, 2013, with a sample size of 1,028. The margin of error was +4 percentage points.


Rasmussen (6/2010).
This telephone poll from June 2-3, 2010 finds that 62% of Adults favor the death penalty, while 26% oppose it.  Twelve percent (12%) are not sure. However, when asked if the death penalty can help deter crime:  45% say yes, while 43% say no.  Thirteen percent (13%) are undecided.  Additionally, Seventy-three percent (73%) also are at least somewhat concerned that some people may be executed for crimes they did not commit, including 40% who are Very Concerned.


New National Poll Shows Decrease in Support for Capital Punishment
The Gallup Poll’s latest national survey of American opinion on the death penalty found that support for capital punishment dropped by 5 percentage points from 2007, down to 64% support from 69% last year. The pecentage of those opposing capital punishment rose from 27% to 30%. This poll reflects that support for the death penalty is equal to the lowest level in the Gallup Polls during the past 30 years. Support had reached a high of 80% in 1994.
 
The last time Gallup asked respondents about alternatives (which would be a better punishment for murder, the death penalty or life in prison with absolutely no possibility of parole) was in 2006. In that poll, more people supported life in prison without parole (48%) than supported the death penalty (47%). (Gallup Poll, 2008 Oct 3-5, Death Penalty)
 


 


 A poll of over 1,000 American adults found that the number of people who oppose the death penalty has increased since 2003. Thirty-percent (30%) of those sampled oppose the death penalty, an 8% increase in the past 5 years. The poll also found that 52% of Americans do not believe that the death penalty deters others from committing murder. Likewise, 95% of those polled stated that they believe that sometimes innocent people are convicted of murder. Among this group, 58% said they would then oppose the death penalty based upon the knowledge that sometimes people are convicted for murders they did not commit. (“Over Three in Five Americans Believe in Death Penalty,” Harris Interactive, BusinessWire, March 18, 2008).

 


A recent poll by NationalChristianPoll.com found that two-thirds of active Christians who oppose the death penalty are concerned about judicial error that could lead to an innocent person being executed.  The poll also found that of Christians who do support the death penalty, 60% do so because of biblical teachings.  According to a Pew Forum poll from 2007, the strongest supporters of the death penalty are white evangelicals, with 74% approval.  However, John Whitehead, president of the conservative Rutherford Institute, remarked , “It's anti-evangelical to kill people. Christianity is redemptive. But you can't redeem people by extinguishing them."

Overall support for the death penalty is at 62% according to the 2007 Pew Forum poll. Most Protestant churches and the Roman Catholic Church oppose capital punishment, though many of their members support it.

James Skillen, president of the Center for Public Justice, noted that many people do not understand the biblical history behind the use of the death penalty and how that history has been misused. He said, "My sense is that historical depth and thinking through the principles of moral decisions about this matter isn't done."
(“Capital Doubts,” by Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, Christianity Today, February 19, 2008). See Religion and Public Opinion.


PRINCETON, NJ -- Gallup's annual October Gallup Poll Social Series update on Americans' attitudes toward crime shows no diminution in Americans' strong support for the death penalty in cases of murder. The Oct. 4-7 poll indicates that 69% of Americans respond "yes" when asked this question: "Are you in favor of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder?" This level of support for the death penalty is generally in line with the level of support that Gallup has measured in 13 polls featuring this question since 1999. A different question that Gallup uses from time to time, however, finds a lower level of support for the death penalty. This question provides the respondent with an explicit alternative to the death penalty: "life imprisonment, with absolutely no possibility of parole." This question was not asked this year, but support for the death penalty typically has registered in the 47% to 54% range when this alternative has been included in the question this decade. (Gallup Poll News Service: October 12, 2007).


New DPIC Poll and Report: "A Crisis of Confidence"
According to a new report and opinion poll issued today by the Death Penalty Information Center, the American public is losing confidence in the death penalty as doubts about innocence and the purpose of capital punishment increase. The report, A Crisis of Confidence: Americans’ Doubts About the Death Penalty, is based on a recent national opinion poll conducted by RT Strategies and commissioned by DPIC.

Key poll findings include:

  • Almost 40% of the public believe that they would be disqualified from serving on a jury in a death penalty case because of their moral beliefs. Among sub-groups such as women, African-Americans, and Catholics, the percentage who believe they would be excluded is even higher. These findings raise serious questions about whether defendants are being judged by “a jury of their peers.”
  • A significant majority (58%) believe it is time for a moratorium on the death penalty while the process undergoes a careful review.
  • An overwhelming 69% of the public believes that reforms will not eliminate all wrongful convictions and executions.
  • Almost all Americans (87%) believe that an innocent person has already been executed in recent years, and over half (55%) say that fact has affected their views on the death penalty.
  • Among those who had changed their position on the death penalty over the last ten years, more people became opponents of the death penalty than proponents by a margin of 3 to 2. Support has been lessened because of the many DNA exonerations that have occurred.
The poll sample included 1,000 adults nationwide and the margin of error was +3.1%.
(Posted June 9, 2007). Read the Report and Press Release.

  Less Support Among Whites and Blacks for Death Penalty
A June 2007 Gallup Poll revealed that, during the past decade, there has been a significant drop in the percentage of whites and blacks who support capital punishment. Among black respondents, opposition to the death penalty has grown from 37% in the mid-1990s to a majority of 56% today. Responses given by white respondents have also shifted during the past decade. In the mid-1990s, 80% of white respondents said that they favored the death penalty, but today that percentage has dropped to 70%. Nationally, support for the death penalty remained at 65%, similar to figures for the past three years, but down significantly from 1994 when 80% supported capital punishment. The Gallup Poll's most recent survey was conducted from June 4-24, 2007, and included interviews with 2,388 adults nationwide. The margin of error is +5 percentage points. (Gallup Poll News Service, July 31, 2007).


The Pew Research Center recently released a poll on a variety of social issues, including the death penalty. The poll found that 64% of the U.S. adults support the imposition of the death penalty for persons convicted of murder. This is a decline of 14 percentage points from 1996, when 78% of respondents said they supported it. The Center reported that support for the death penalty was higher among men than women, and was substantially higher among whites (69%) than among African Americans (44%) and Hispanics (45%). (Yahoo News, June 20, 2007; based on Pew Research Center Poll, March 22, 2007).


Gallup Poll on the Death Penalty
With the question being, "Are you in favor of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder?" 67% of Americans favor the death penalty and 5% have no opinion. The remaining 28% are against capital punishment. (Gallup Poll: October 9-12, 2006)


Americans Closely Split Between Death Penalty and Life Without Parole
A June 2006 TNS Poll (released by the Washington Post and ABC News) found little change in American opinion on the death penalty over the past three years. Sixty-five percent of American adults still favor the death penalty for persons convicted of murder. Despite this, when respondents were given a choice between the sentencing options of life without parole and the death penalty, 46% favored life without parole. Fifty percent of respondents, however, selected the death penalty as their preference for the punishment of those convicted of murder. (Angus Reid Global Scan, July 1, 2006).


New Gallup Poll Reveals Growing Number of Americans Favors Life Without Parole
A May 2006 Gallup Poll examining American opinion about the death penalty found that when given a choice between the sentencing options of life without parole and the death penalty, only 47% of respondents chose capital punishment, the lowest percentage in two decades. Forty-eight percent favored life without parole for those convicted of murder. The poll also revealed that overall support for the death penalty remains low at 65%, down significantly from 1994 when 80% supported capital punishment. When asked whether the death penalty deters murder, 64% of those polled stated that it does not; only 34% believe it does deter. This is a dramatic shift from the 1980s and early 1990s, when the majority of Americans still believed that the death penalty prevented murder. 63% of those polled believe that an innocent person has been executed in the past 5 years, an increase over previous results. (Gallup News Service, June 1, 2006).
 
 Majority in U.S. Supports Death Penalty
Support for the death penalty in the US remains at the same levels as previous years. 65% of Americans said they favored the death penalty in March 2006, compared to the 68% who favored it in July 2005 and 64% that favored it in July 2003. There was a margin of error of +/- 3. The poll asked: "I’d like to get your views on some issues that are being discussed in this country today. All in all, do you strongly favor, favor, oppose, or strongly oppose the death penalty for persons convicted of murder?" Historically, support for the death penalty has been lower when respondents are given the option of life without the possibility of parole.
(source: Angus Reid Global Scan: Polls & Research) March 27, 2006
 

Death Penalty support lowest among youth in US, UK, and Canada
Support for the death penalty, at a 27 year low in the US was at 64%, while in Great Britain it was at 49% and at 44% in Canada. For the age group of 18-29 year olds in the US, UK and Canada, support was at 60%, 46% and 40% respectively and averaged slightly higher at 65%, 50%, 45% for the rest of the the adult populations, respectively. Females continued to support the death penalty less than males at 59% to 70% in the US, 48% to 49% in the UK and 39% to 49% in Canada. The poll also reinforced the partisan divide showing in the US where 78% of those who favor the death penalty approved of the more conservative President George W. Bush, and 51% of those who favored the death penalty disapproved of the UK's more liberal Prime Minister Tony Blair, and in Canada, 50% of those that supported the death penalty disapproved of the more liberal then-Prime Minister Paul Martin. (Gallup, February 20, 2006)


Little Change For U.S. Death Penalty Views
Many Americans are in favor of capital punishment, according to a poll by TNS released by the Washington Post and ABC News. 65 % of respondents support the death penalty for persons convicted of murder.
Since 1976, 961 people have been put to death in the United States, including 17 during 2005. More than a third of all executions have taken place in the state of Texas. 12 states and the District of Columbia do not engage in capital punishment, and moratoriums on executions have been issued in x and Maryland.
Do you favor or oppose the death penalty for persons convicted of murder?
  • Apr. 2005- Favor: 65% Oppose: 29%
  • Jan. 2003- Favor: 64% Oppose: 31%
  • May 2002- Favor: 65% Oppose: 26%
(sources: TNS/Washington Post/ABC News)


Poll Gauges Support for Death Penalty
A new Fox News/Dynamics poll released on April 4th found that 69% of respondents favored the death penalty for persons convicted of premeditated murder. The poll asked "Do you favor or oppose the death penalty for persons convicted of premeditated murder?" 24% were "opposed" and 8% were "not sure" with a 3% margin of error. The results were very similar to those of the same question asked in June 2003 with the only change being a 1 point increase of those who "oppose" the death penalty. The poll was conducted through 900 telephone calls to registered voters. The results are consistent with other polls that do not give a choice of sentences such as life without parole, which lowers the support rate for death sentences dramatically.
(Fox News/Dynamics, April 4, 2005).


Zogby Poll Finds Dramatic Decline in Catholic Support For Death Penalty
A national poll of Roman Catholic adults conducted by Zogby International found that Catholic support for capital punishment has declined dramatically in recent years. The Zogby Poll was released on March 21, 2005 at a press conference of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as it announced a new Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty. The poll revealed that only 48% of Catholics now support the death penalty. Comparable polls by other organizations had registered a 68% support among Catholics in 2001. In addition, the percentage of Catholics who are strongly supportive of capital punishment has been halved, from a high of 40% to 20% in the most recent survey. The poll also found that:
  • Regular churchgoers are less likely to support the death penalty than those who attend infrequently.
  • Younger Catholics are among those least likely to support the death penalty.
  • A third of Catholics who once supported the use of the death penalty now oppose it.
Among the major reasons Catholics gave for their opposition to capital punishment was "respect for life," and 63% voiced concerns about what the use of the death penalty "does to us as a people and a country." Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, was joined by John Zogby, President of Zogby International, Bud Welch, whose daughter was killed in the Oklahoma City bombing, and Kirk Bloodsworth, who was freed from death row after DNA evidence led to his exoneration, at the press conference. (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Press Release, March 21, 2005). See the Website for the Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty. See also Public Opinion.


Poll Finds Waning Support for Death Penalty
According to a recent poll conducted by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, only 62% of respondents support capital punishment for persons convicted of murder, and Americans prefer the sentencing option of life without parole when given the choice. Overall support for capital punishment has fallen since Quinnipiac's poll in June 2004, when support registered 65%. Similar shifts in public opinion found growing support for life-without-parole sentences. In the December poll when respondents were given a choice, only 42% supported capital punishment while 46% supported life without parole. (Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, December 18, 2004). Other national polls have also noted a decrease in public support for the death penalty. The 62% support reported here is one of the lowest levels in recent years. See Life Without Parole.


Gallup Poll Finds Decline in Support for the Death Penalty
An October 2004 Gallup Poll measuring public opinion regarding the death penalty revealed a decline in support for capital punishment. The poll found that 66% of Americans support the death penalty for those convicted of murder, down 5% from an earlier 2004 poll and significantly lower than the high of 80% in 1994. In an analysis of Gallup polls on this question from 2001 to 2004, women were more likely to oppose the death penalty than men. Among African-American respondents, 49% opposed the death penalty and 44% were in favor of it. Catholics were less supportive of the death penalty than Protestants, and Catholics who attended church regularly were even less likely to support it than Catholics who seldom attended church. (Gallup Poll Analysis, November 16, 2004). Read the Gallup Press Release.


Support for Death Penalty Remains Lower
A May 2004 poll by the political consulting firm of Ayres McHenry and Associates found that 66% of respondents support capital punishment for murder, a figure that reflects the lower support for the death penalty found in several polls taken in 2003. (Ayres McHenry and Associates, May 2004) In 2003, polling results published by Gallup Poll, ABC News, and the Pew Research Center all measured support for capital punishment at 64%, significantly below the public's support for capital punishment in the 1990s.


Gallup Poll Finds Decreased Support for Death Penalty When Compared with Life Sentence
A May 2004 Gallup Poll found that a growing number of Americans support a sentence of life without parole rather than the death penalty for those convicted of murder. Gallup found that 46% of respondents favor life imprisonment over the death penalty, up from 44% in May 2003. During that same time frame, support for capital punishment as an alternative fell from 53% to 50%. The poll also revealed a growing skepticism that the death penalty deters crime, with 62% of those polled saying that it is not a deterrent. These percentages are a dramatic shift from the responses given to this same question in 1991, when 51% of Americans believed the death penalty deterred crime and only 41% believed it did not. Only 55% of those polled responded that they believed the death penalty is implemented fairly, down from 60% in 2003. When not offered an alternative sentence, 71% supported the death penalty and 26% opposed. The overall support is about the same as that reported in 2002, but down from the 80% support in 1994. (Gallup Poll News Service, June 2, 2004) Read the Gallup Press Release. See Life Without Parole.


Americans More Skeptical of Any Deterrent Effect of the Death Penalty
A recent Harris Poll found that only 41% of Americans believe that the death penalty deters crime, marking the smallest number of such respondents in 27 years of this poll. Only 37% of those polled would continue to support capital punishment if they believed "that quite a substantial number of innocent people are convicted of murder." Overall, 69% percent of those polled said that they support capital punishment. The poll was conducted in December 2003. (PR Newswire, January 7, 2004)
 

ABC Poll Shows Public Opposed to Death Penalty for Malvo
A new poll conducted by ABC News revealed that only 37% of the public supports the death penalty for Lee Boyd Malvo, who was recently convicted of murder in Virginia. Malvo was 17 at the time of a series of shootings in the Washington, DC area. 52% of respondents preferred a sentence of life without parole for Malvo. Even stronger opposition to the death penalty for juveniles in general was revealed in the same poll: only 21% were in favor of the death penalty for juveniles, versus the 62% who preferred the sentence of life without parole. The poll was conducted Dec. 10-14 (ABC News, Dec. 19, 2003). See Juveniles.
 


 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)

Public Support for Death Penalty Drops to 25-Year Low
According to the latest Gallup Poll in October 2003, support for the death penalty has dropped to 64%, its lowest level since 1978. The 32% of Americans opposed to the death penalty represented the most opposition since 1972. (2003 poll: CNN.com, November 25, 2003; Fox News, November 26, 2003) This finding is particularly noteworthy given the extensive media coverage leading to the trials of John Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo in Virginia. Two other polls this year also recorded a drop in death penalty support to 64%: ABC News poll and Pew Research Center Poll.


Recent Study Reveals Priests Shape Catholic Opinion on the Death Penalty
A recent paper based on the Notre Dame Study of Catholic Parish Life reveals that support for the death penalty among Catholics is strongly shaped by the opinion of their parish priest. After examining Catholic opinions regarding capital punishment, sociologists Michael Welch of Notre Dame and Thoroddur Bjarnason of the University of Albany-SUNY discovered that Catholics are less likely to support the death penalty when their parish priest strongly opposes it. The study also found that parishioners who were devout and active in parish life were more likely to oppose the death penalty. (Notre Dame Magazine, Summer 2003).


Pew Poll Reveals Declining Support for the Death Penalty
A recent Pew Research Center poll revealed a significant decline in support for the death penalty as 64% of respondents supported the punishment compared to 78% in 1996. In addition, the poll found that fewer respondents who favored capital punishment felt strongly about their support (28% today compared to 43% in 1996), while a growing number of Americans are voicing opposition to the punishment altogether (30% today compared to 18% in 1996).
Other Pew Research Center polling results include:

  • 58% of Americans oppose the execution of persons who commit murder when they were under the age of 18. Among African-American voters, 80% oppose the juvenile death penalty.
  • 55% of African-Americans oppose capital punishment, and 39% favor its use. These findings are a reverse of polling data collected in 1996 that showed 54% of African-Americans supporting the death penalty and 36% opposed to the punishment.
  • Today, just over half of Hispanics support the death penalty compared to three-in-four in 1996.
  • Support for the death penalty among mainline Protestants has dropped from 85% in 1996 to 70% today. Among white Catholics, 69% currently support capital punishment compared to 79% in 1996. Secular support has also slipped, down from 78% in 1996 to 60% today.
("Religion and Politics: Contention and Consensus," Pew Research Center, July 24, 2003). Read the report.

PUBLIC OPINION: Fox News Probes Death Penalty Support
A recent Fox News poll found that 69% of Americans favor the death penalty for persons convicted of premeditated murder, a drop of 7 percentage points from the number of respondents supporting capital punishment in 1997. The poll revealed that 23% of respondents opposed capital punishment, and 8% were not sure. In previous years, support for the death penalty registered 76% in 1997, 74% in 1998, 68% in 2000, and 2001. (Fox News, June 10, 2003).

Americans Nearly Split on Preferred Punishment

According to a new Gallup Poll, Americans are closely split on the proper sentence for convicted murderers. Though most respondents support the death penalty, that support dropped to 53% when people were offered the alternative sentence of life without parole (LWOP), with 44% supporting LWOP. This split has remained fairly constant over the past 3 years, and support for LWOP as grown sine 1997 when 61% chose the death penalty and only 29% favored life imprisonment. The poll also found that:
  • Among subgroups, support for life without parole varied with the level of education completed:
  • Post graduates - 62% support LWOP
    College graduates - 50% support LWOP
    High School education or less - 40% support LWOP
  • 74% of Americans support the death penalty when asked: "Are you in favor of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder?"
  • Among ideological conservatives, 62% favor the death penalty and 36% prefer life imprisonment. Among ideological liberals, 37% prefer the death penalty and 60% prefer life imprisonment.
  • 73% of Americans believe an innocent person has been executed under the death penalty in the last five years.

(Gallup Press Release, May 19, 2003) Read Gallup's Press Release

 


Public Opinion Split on Preferred Punishment
A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found that while 64% of Americans support the death penalty when no other alternative is offered, they remain divided on the appropriate punishment for those convicted of murder when given the option of life in prison. When given a choice, 49% percent choose the death penalty and 45% choose life in prison. The poll also revealed that 39% of respondents would like to see their governor issue a blanket commutation of death row inmates similar to that issued by Governor Ryan recently in Illinois, and 58% would be opposed to such action. This last question was asked only in the 38 states that have the death penalty. (ABCNews.com, January 24, 2003)


A Harris Interactive survey for CNN and Time magazine found that 44% of respondents agreed with Illinois Governor George Ryan's decision to commute the sentences of Illinois prisoners on death row to life in prison because he believes the administration of capital punishment has not been fair in that state; 44% disagreed. (Harris Interactive, January 17, 2003)


A Harris Interactive survey for CNN and Time magazine found that 51% of respondents supported the death penalty for suspected Beltway sniper John Lee Malvo if he is found guilty; 43 % favored life in prison. A higher percentage (72%) of respondents supported the death penalty for suspect John Allen Muhammad, with 23% favoring life in prison. (National Journal, 11/2/02)


Latest Gallup Poll Shows High Profile Crimes Have Not Raised Death Penalty Support
Despite the recent sniper shootings in the Washington, DC area, public support for the death penalty actually dropped compared to a May 2002 poll. In a Gallup Poll released on October 29, 2002, 70% supported the death penalty compared with 72% in May, and down considerably from the 80% support registered in 1994. According to George Gallup, Jr., the terror attacks of September 11 also have had little impact on public opinion about the death penalty. Support was at 67% in May, 2001.
Gallup's poll on capital punishment also found that American teenagers are 2-to-1 in favor of life imprisonment with no parole over the death penalty. (Gallup International, Government & Public Affairs, October 29, 2002)


Gallup Poll Probes National Opinion on the Death Penalty
The most recent national death penalty poll conducted by the Gallup Organization found that, while the majority of Americans support capital punishment, they oppose executing those who are mentally retarded, mentally ill, or who are juveniles at the time of their crime. Only about half of Americans believe the death penalty is applied fairly. The poll found that:

  • Only 53% of those polled believe the death penalty is applied fairly, while 40% say it is applied unfairly. Among non-white respondents, 54% believe the death penalty is applied unfairly.
  • When given the sentencing alternative of life without the possibility of parole, 52% of Americans support the death penalty and 43% favor life imprisonment.
  • 82% of respondents oppose the death penalty for the mentally retarded.
  • 73% oppose the death penalty for those who are mentally ill.
  • 69% of Americans oppose capital punishment for juvenile offenders.
  • In general, 72% of Americans favor the death penalty for defendants convicted of murder and 25% opposed it.
(Gallup News Service, May 20, 2002). To see the complete results of this poll, visit the Gallup Web site (this link requires a subscription).

Support for the Death Penalty Remains Low After 9-11
An ABCNews.com poll revealed that public support for the death penalty remains virtually unchanged from before the tragedy of September 11th, and it is still considerably lower than it was in 1994. The ABCNEWS.com poll found that 65% of Americans support the death penalty when no alternative is offered. When given the sentencing option of life without the possibility of parole, only 46% of Americans support the death penalty. This number is unchanged from April 2001 poll data. (ABCNEWS.com, May 7, 2002).


Poll Finds Support for the Death Penalty Unchanged Since Last Year
Despite the events of September 11, Americans' support for the death penalty is "virtually unchanged" from a year ago, and down considerably from five years ago. In polls conducted by the Pew Research Center, 67% favored the death penalty in March 2002 for those convicted of murder, 66% in March 2001, and 78% in June 1996. A higher percentage did support the death penalty for those convicted of terrorism. (Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life , Press Release, 3/20/02)


U.S. Catholic Support for Capital Punishment Declines Sharply
A Zogby International poll of more than 1,500 Catholics in the United States found that they are nearly evenly divided as to whether "capital punishment is wrong under virtually all circumstances." The poll found that 49% of respondents agreed with the statement, and 48% disagreed. This is a sharp decline from ten years ago, when a Gallup poll revealed that 77% of U.S. Catholics favored the death penalty. (Catholics Against Capital Punishment News Notes, Volume 11, Number 1).


Support For the Death Penalty Remains Low Despite Terrorists Attacks
The Gallup Poll asked "Are you in favor of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder?" in both May and October, 2001. In May, 65% of respondents favored the death penalty, the lowest response in 20 years. Twenty-seven percent were against the death penalty, and 8% had no opinion. When the same question was asked in October (after the attacks of September 11), support for the death penalty had only slightly increased to 68%, with 26% opposed. (The margin of error was +/-5 pct. pts.) Complete poll findings are available at the Gallup web site by subscription.


Death Penalty Support Remains Low
A July 2001 Harris Interactive survey found that:

  • 94% of Americans believe innocent people are sometimes convicted of murder
  • those surveyed believe that, on average, 12% of those convicted of murder are innocent
  • only 42% believe the death penalty deters crime; the smallest percentage in 25 years
  • 26% favor a decrease in executions, up from 14% in 1997 and 22% last year; the percent of those who would like to see executions increase has fallen to 35%, down from 53% in 1997 and 43% in 1999.
Support for the death penalty is at 67%, up slightly from last year's 64%, but still down from 75% in 1997. (PR Newswire, 8/17/01)

USA Today Poll Finds General Death Penalty Support Down to 59%
A nationwide poll released earlier this month by USA Today shows that general support for the death penalty has fallen to 59%. According to the poll, 22% of respondents who said they oppose the death penalty would support the execution of Timothy McVeigh. Many of those who voiced opposition to the death penalty noted that they were recent converts to the anti-death penalty cause -- persuaded by the belief that some innocent people are wrongly convicted. (USA Today, 5/4/01)


ABC News Poll Finds Drop in Support for Death Penalty and Majority in Favor of Moratorium
An ABC News Poll found that 51% of Americans support a nationwide moratorium on executions while a commission studies whether the death penalty is applied fairly. The poll also found that overall support for the death penalty has dropped to 63%, down from 77% just five years ago. Support drops further to 46% when respondents are given the sentencing options of life without parole or the death penalty, with 45% choosing life without parole. The poll also found:

  • 52% believe that the death penalty is not a deterrent to murder; up from 31% in 1985 and 41% in 1991
  • 51% support replacing the death penalty with life in prison with no chance of parole
  • 68% believe the death penalty is unfair because of mistaken executions
  • 63% believe the death penalty is unfair because of geographical differences
  • 37% believe the death penalty is unfair because it is applied unequally to blacks compared to whites
(ABC News Poll, Press Release, 4/24/01, embargo 5/2/01)

A Reuters/Zogby poll conducted April 23-25, 2001 found that while a majority of Americans favor the death penalty, 32% of respondents would like it used only against people convicted of multiple murders or crimes against humanity. The poll also found:

  • 70% of respondents said the Timothy McVeigh execution should be restricted to family members of victims and of McVeigh
  • 30% of respondents agreed that "the death penalty unfairly discriminates against minorities and life without parole would exact just as much justice."
(Reuters, 4/26/01)

Poll Finds Support for Death Penalty Alternatives and for System Reforms
A national poll recently conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates found only 60% favored the death penalty for persons convicted of murder. The poll also found that when respondents were offered the sentencing alternative of life imprisonment with restitution to the victims' families, support for the death penalty fell to 38%, with 48% supporting the alternative. Among the poll's additional findings:

  • 72% favored suspension of the death penalty until questions about its fairness can be studied, up from 64% in August 2000
  • 91% favored requiring courts to allow death row inmates access to DNA tests that could prove their innocence
  • 84% favored requiring court-appointed attorneys in death penalty cases to have prior experience in capital cases and to be certified to handle such cases by the local Bar Association
  • 82% favor requiring courts to have funds available to ensure that capital defendants have adequate counsel
(Poll Results, Peter D. Hart Research Associates, Inc., March 2001) Visit the Justice Project's Web site to read their Press Release or see the complete poll results.

Death Penalty Support Remains Low
A Gallup Poll conducted in February showed that support for the death penalty remains near the 19-year low recorded last year. Sixty-seven percent of Americans support the death penalty for murder, while 25% are opposed. The poll also found that, when given the sentencing alternative of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, only 54% said they would choose the death penalty, while 42% favored life imprisonment.
When supporters were asked their reasons for favoring the death penalty, the most (48%) mentioned "an eye for an eye," 20% said that it saved taxpayers money, and only 10% said it was a deterrent. The poll also showed:

  • 65% agreed that a poor person is more likely than a person of average or above average income to receive the death penalty for the same crime
  • 50% agreed that a black person is more likely than a white person to receive the death penalty for the same crime
(Gallup Poll Release, 3/2/01) Complete poll findings, including comparisons with previous polls, are available at http://www.gallup.com/poll/ by subscription.

Poll Finds Wrongful Convictions Leave Jurors Less Inclined to Impose Death Sentences
A recent poll of potential jurors by The National Law Journal and DecisionQuest found that recent exonerations of death row inmates, both by DNA and outside investigations, have made 31% of potential voters more inclined to vote for life imprisonment instead of the death penalty. In addition, the poll found that less than half of those surveyed believe that current procedures for reviewing death sentences are adequate. (National Law Journal, 12/11/00)


Poll Reveals Support for Death Penalty Reform
A bi-partisan group of Senators and Representatives released the results of a poll by Peter Hart Research and American Viewpoint showing:

  • 64% of Americans support a moratorium on executions until issues of fairness in capital punishment can be resolved
  • 89% support providing access to DNA evidence in capital cases
  • 83% support providing qualified, experienced attorneys in capital cases
  • 55% said it is not enough to require DNA testing without ensuring access to competent counsel
(The Justice Project, Press Release, 9/14/00)

Poll Finds Support for the Death Penalty Declining
A Harris poll found that support for the death penalty dropped to 64% this year, down from 75% in 1997 and 71% in 1999. "The recent debate about the quality of justice in murder trials, the overturning of several convictions as a result of DNA tests, and the resulting moratorium on executions in Illinois, have clearly had an impact on public attitudes to the penalty," said Harris Poll Chairman Humphrey Taylor. The poll also found that 94% believed that some innocent people have been convicted of murder. (Reuters, 8/2/00)


Polls Show Majority Support for National Moratorium on Death Penalty
A nation-wide NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll found that, in light of the many innocent inmates released from death row, 63% of voters favored a suspension of the death penalty until questions about its fairness can be studied. In addition, 42% stated that they think the death penalty is not applied fairly. (7/27-28/00)


Majority of Americans Believe Innocent Person Has Been Executed in Last Five Years
A CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll shows that only a slim majority (51%) of Americans believe the death penalty is applied fairly. In addition, 80% believe an innocent person has been executed in the United States in the past five years, and 46% say that an innocent person has been executed in Texas during George W. Bush's tenure as governor. The poll also shows that support for the death penalty remains at 66%, unchanged from a Gallup poll in February, which showed support for the death penalty at a 19 year low. (CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll Release, 6/30/00)


A nationwide Newsweek poll found:

  • 95% think states should permit DNA testing in cases where it might prove a person's guilt or innocence.
  • 82% think states should make it easier for death row inmates to introduce new evidence that may prove their innocence, even if it might result in delays in the death penalty process. (Newsweek poll, June 1-2, 2000)

Americans Support DNA Testing to Clear Innocent Inmates
A Gallup Poll shows that 92% of Americans believe that prisoners, who were convicted before DNA tests were ever available, should be allowed to have DNA tests now, if such tests might show their innocence. Support for this position runs solidly across all demographic groups and political ideologies. (Gallup News Service, 3/30/00)

Support for Death Penalty at 19-year Low
A Gallup Poll shows that although a majority of Americans favor the death penalty, that percentage has been gradually decreasing and is now at 66%, its lowest level since 1981. Also among the poll findings:

  • When given the alternative of life without the possibility of parole, the percentage of Americans favoring the death penalty drops to 52%.
  • 91% of those polled acknowledged that over the past 20 years, there has been at least one person sentenced to death who was nevertheless innocent.
(Gallup Press Release, 2/24/00)

A Gallup Poll found that 65% of Americans agree that a poor person is more likely than a person of average or above average income to receive the death penalty. (Gallup Poll, February 8-9, 2000)


According to an ABCNEWS.com telephone survey, support for the death penalty is dropping. Support for the death penalty itself has fallen, from a high of 77% in a 1996 poll to 64% now.
Support drops even further, to below 50%, when the alternative punishment of life in prison without parole is offered. When the survey asked those polled which punishment they prefer, death or life without parole, support for the death penalty dropped from 64% to 48%. The survey sampled 1,006 adults and the results have a three-point error margin. (ABCNEWS.com, 1/19/00)


More Americans favored life over death for Terry Nichols. A Gallup poll found that 46% of adults surveyed believed Mr. Nichols should be sentenced to either life in prison or a lesser sentence (42% life; 4% lesser). Only 45% believed he should be sentenced to death. (NY Times, 1/11/98). That result mirrors widespread support for life without parole sentences in other polls last year.


A CNN Poll found that only 61% favored the death penalty for Timothy McVeigh (CNN Poll, 1997)


1997 Time Magazine and Newsweek polls found:

  • 52% of Americans do not believe the death penalty deters people from committing crime (Time Magazine, 1997)
  • 60% do not believe vengeance is a legitimate reason for putting a murderer to death (Time Magazine, 1997)
  • 49% believe blacks are more likely than whites to receive the death penalty for the same crime (Newsweek, 1997)
  • 75% of non-whites agree that blacks are more likely than whites to receive the death penalty for the same crime (Newsweek, 1997)