USA: DEATH PENALTY SUPPORT STABLE AT 63%
January 9, 2013: Americans' support for the death penalty as punishment for murder has plateaued in the low 60s in recent years, after several years in which support was diminishing. 63% now favor the death penalty as the punishment for murder, similar to 61% in 2011 and 64% in 2010. Gallup first asked Americans for their views on the death penalty using this question in 1936, and has asked it at least annually since 1999.
The latest results come from a Dec. 19-22, 2012, USA Today/Gallup survey, conducted in the first few days after the Newtown, Conn., school shooting massacre.
Although views on the death penalty have been fairly static since 2010, support has been gradually diminishing since the high point in 1994, when 80% were in favor. By 2001, roughly 2/3 were in favor, and since then it has edged closer to 60%. One exception to that is adults who describe their political views as "liberal." Just under half of liberals, 47%, favor the death penalty, while 50% oppose it. However, most conservatives and moderates support it, as do majorities of all party groups, including 51% of Democrats. Additionally, nonwhites are closely divided on the issue, with 49% in favor and 45% opposed. That contrasts with whites, among whom 68% are in favor.
These patterns of support are consistent with previous Gallup findings on the death penalty. In addition, men continue to be more supportive than women of the death penalty, this year by 67% to 59%, and those without a college degree are more supportive than those with a college degree. Despite the moral nature of the death penalty as a political issue, with teachings on it differing among the various faiths, Gallup finds virtually no difference in support for it on the basis of respondents' religious background. Two-thirds of Protestants and Catholics, alike, are in favor of the death penalty as a punishment for murder, as are at least six in 10 adults regardless of whether they attend church weekly, monthly, or less often.
Only among those who say they have no religious preference, which would include atheists and agnostics, is there a difference, with a slightly smaller 56% in favor of the death penalty. There are, however, sharp differences in views about capital punishment by gun ownership.
Those who report personally owning a gun are much more likely than those who do not have a gun to favor the death penalty: 80% vs. 55%. Survey Methods: Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Dec. 19-22, 2012, with a random sample of 1,038 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is 4 % points. (Source: Gallup.com, 09/01/2013)