Independent statewide polls from 1989 and 1993-1999 asked this question to a broad sample of Virginians:
"Would you favor abolition of the death penalty if the alternative were a life sentence with no possibility of parole for a minimum of 25 years, combined with a restitution program requiring the prisoner to work for money that would go to families of murder victims?"
The response: The 1989 poll from Virginia Commonwealth University and
the 1993-1999 polls from the Center for Survey Research at Virginia Tech
show that Virginians overwhelmingly prefer this alternative over the death
In 2000 and 2001, the alternative question was changed to life in prison
with no possibility of parole. When given that alternative in 2000,
48% agreed with that alternative, while 51.6% still favored the death penalty
In 2001, 50% agreed with the alternative, while 45.9% still favored the
Once again as in 2000, the alternative question asked was straight life in prison with no possibility of parole. When given this alternative, 50% agreed with the alternative, while 45.2% still supported the death penalty.
The 2001 poll also asked whether respondents agreed with Virginia's 21- Day Rule which allows someone sentenced to death or any felony 21 days to introduce any newly discovered evidence in court. 15.8% agreed with this law, while 82.7% disagreed. Compared with the same question asked in 1997, those who disagree increased over 10%.
The wording of this question was intentionally altered from that used in previous surveys in order to asses the impact of dropping the phrase, "combined with a requirement that the prisoner work for money that would go to the victims' families."
1999 Poll Results
For the 7th consecutive year survey results from the Quality of Life in Virginia Poll show that Virginians prefer an alternative to the death penalty. When surveyors asked 514 respondents whether they supported the death penalty, 74 % agreed. This is the lowest percentage that responded in favor of the death penalty in the 7 years. For the second consecutive year nearly 20% opposed the death penalty which is the highest recorded in the 7 years of polling..
But when respondents were asked their views if there were the
alternative of Life, with no possibility of parole for a minimum of 25
years combined with restitution to the victims’ family, 54.8% agreed with
the alternative and 40.5 % disagreed.
1998 Poll Results
For the 6th consecutive year, Virginians support for the death penalty is cut by more than half when given the alternative of life with no possibility of parole for a minimum of 25 years combined with restitution to the victims' family. This year's results also show a continuing downward trend in support of the death penalty overall. 75.4% supported the death penalty in this year's poll. That is a decrease from 79.5% last from last year and 82.8% from the year before. Consequently, opposition to the death penalty has risen through the last 3 years. While 13.2% opposed the death penalty in 1996, and 17% opposed it last year, nearly 20% opposed it this year.
When given the alternative, 56.3% agreed with the alternative while 37.9% disagreed. This is consistent within a percentage point of results through the last 4 years.
Results based on 726 completed interviews with a margin of error +-
The Center for Survey Research at Virginia Tech has released this year's (1997) results to their annual poll. Highlights of the questions pertaining to the death penalty are:
When asked the generic question of for or against, 79.5% supported the
844 interviews were completed with a margin of error of +-3.4% at the
95% level of
From This Year's Quality of Life in Virginia Poll (1997)
Question #1) Do you support the death penalty for convicted murderers?
Question #2) Would you favor an alternative sentence of Life, with no
possibility of parole
Question #3) Do you favor the Virginia law that does not allow any new
This annual survey reaffirms that support for the death penalty dwindles to a minority when the public is given the alternative of life, with no possibility of parole for 25 years, plus restitution to the victims' families.
Virginians clearly oppose, by a 3 to 1 margin, the state law which prevents the accused from introducing new evidence of innocence 21 days after trial.
Source: Center for Survey Research at Virginia Tech, 1997