Gallup – U.S. Death Penalty Support Lowest in More Than 40 Years
U.S. Death Penalty Support Lowest in More Than 40 Years
Sixty percent of Americans favor death penalty for convicted murderers
PRINCETON, NJ — Sixty percent of Americans say they favor the death penalty for convicted murderers, the lowest level of support Gallup has measured since November 1972, when 57% were in favor. Death penalty support peaked at 80% in 1994, but it has gradually declined since then.
Gallup first asked Americans their views on the death penalty using this question in 1936, and has updated it periodically since then, including annual updates since 1999.
Americans have typically favored the death penalty; in fact, support has exceeded opposition in all but one survey, conducted in May 1966, during an era marked by philosophical and legal challenges to the death penalty from the mid-1950s through the early 1970s. Americans’ support for the death penalty waned during that time. The culmination of that era was the Supreme Court’s 1972 Furman v. Georgia decision, which invalidated all state death penalty statutes on technical grounds but stopped short of declaring the practice itself unconstitutional. Four years later, the court ruled that several newly written death penalty laws were constitutional, and executions resumed in the U.S. shortly thereafter.
From then until the mid-’90s, death penalty support climbed, reaching 80% in 1994, a year in which Americans consistently named crime as the most important problem facing the United States.
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. More recently, since 2006, six states have repealed death penalty laws outright, including Maryland this year.