The latest Gallup Poll shows a vast majority of Americans support the death penalty, with 69% of the participants saying yes when they were asked if they were in favor of the death penalty for a person who had been convicted of murder. This figure has been pretty steady since1999. Before 1999, the opinions were not that steady. Gallup first asked this question in the 1930’s. There has only been one time in all the years where there was more opposition than support and that was back in May of 1966, and the all time high point was 80% in 1994.
The way the question is asked can make a difference in the response. The results from the very basic favor or oppose question, which has been in use since the 1930’s has had varied responses over the years.
Gallup uses a different question from time to time which gives the respondent alternatives to the death penalty such as life imprisonment, with absolutely no possibility of parole and when they ask this question, the death penalty gets less support. They did not ask this question this year, but when they asked this question since 2000, the death penalty has gotten 47% to 54% support.
All in all, a substantial majority of Americans support the idea of the use of the death penalty in cases of murder, but some of this support appears weak enough that it could be affected by a promise that convicted murderers would be given life imprisonment with no chance for parole. Some Americans may be skeptical that such a guarantee could ever be made ironclad, which may at least partially account for the gap between basic support for the death penalty and support in response to this hypothetical question.
Gallup also does a survey each year in May that asks about morals and beliefs and in this year’s survey, almost the same amount who support the death penalty find it to be morally acceptable, 66%. And 27% say the death penalty is morally wrong and these opinions have been about the same since 2001.
Not only does a majority of Americans support the death penalty, but most also say that it is not imposed too often. About 20% say it is imposed too often, about 50% say it is not imposed often enough and the rest say it is imposed at about the right amount.
Much of the criticism for the death penalty alleges that is imposed unfairly. There have been cases where DNA evidence has shown that some of the people on death row are not guilty of the crimes that they were convicted of. There is also an argument about people who belong to certain sectors of the population, including minorities, are more likely to receive the death penalty than those in other groups.
This survey shows that 38% of Americans think that the death penalty is applied unfairly while 57% say it is not.
Breaking it down demographically, there are only 2 groups that are more than 10% above the average in support for the death penalty and those are conservatives and Republicans. There are three groups who are less likely by 10% or more than the average to support the death penalty and those are liberals, those with postgraduate education, and nonwhites.
Also, the death penalty gets more support from men than it does from women.
Source: Gallup http://www.galluppoll.com/