A new poll conducted by Quinnipiac University finds that American voters choose life without parole over the death penalty 51-37 percent, the first time a majority chose life over death since the poll first asked the question in 2004. It’s an important development because by including the option of life without parole, the survey shows that the majority opts for the latter. Too often, pollsters question voters about their support for the death penalty without presenting an option, which gives the erroneous impression that the majority support executions. And, in fact, when Quinnipiac posed the question, with no other option, support increased to 58 – 33 percent.

By a much wider margin, 71-21 percent, voters say they are opposed to the death penalty for opioid drug dealers, a proposal endorsed by Donald Trump. (See our lead story in this issue.)

However, while these poll numbers are encouraging, the poll also found that, 64-31 percent, voters are opposed to abolishing the death penalty nationwide.

“It’s a mixed message on a question that has moral and religious implications. Voters are perhaps saying, ‘Keep the death penalty, but just don’t use it,’” is how Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, explains the seeming disconnect.

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