Tuesday, April 18, 2006

"Average Americans are opposed to state-sanctioned execution"

So says Court TV's Catherine Crier in her book Contempt: How the Right is Wronging American Justice. I was shocked when I read this. Here's the excerpt:
Though the Religious Right swears by capital punishment, average Americans are opposed to state-sanctioned execution. A CBS News opinion poll conducted in April of 2005 asked, "What do you think should be the penalty for persons convicted of murder- the death penalty, life in prison with no chance of parole, or a long prison sentence with a chance of parole?" Only 39 percent of the respondents chose the death penalty; 39 percent chose life with no parole, 6 percent said a long sentence with parole, and 13 percent volunteered the answer "Depends."

Over the last six years, there have been numerous polls that have shown a 50-50 split on the death penalty when LWOP is an option. This is the first time that I've seen support for the death penalty clearly in the minority.

A search of "CBS News poll 2005 death penalty" uncovers this list of polls on crime from pollingreport.com. This list shows the power of the question. When the question is simply asked, "Do you support or oppose the death penalty," support is in the 60+% range. But when the respondents are given options, it is obvious that the American public is uneasy with capital punishment. If you scroll past the CBS poll, there is a Quinnipiac poll from 2004 that shows just 46% support for LWOP over the death penalty and just 42% support for capital punishment. Those favoring LWOP include 33% of Republicans, 57% of Democrats, and 46% of independents.

And the long, slow fall of the death penalty continues...


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