Majority of Californians favor life in prison over death penalty according to new polls


“Governor Gavin Newsom’s heroic act of declaring a moratorium on executions in our state has inspired us all,” DPF President Mike Farrell said in his letter in this issue. And a poll from the Public Policy Institute of California conducted just two weeks after Newsom’s announcement, bears this out.

“A record high 62 percent of adults” in California, 58 percent of whom are likely voters, chose life in prison over the death penalty, PPIC reports. The survey found that only 31 percent of adults— 38 percent of whom are likely voters — favored the death penalty. This is exciting news, and shows that in spite of the charges by death penalty supporters that Newsom was “thwarting the will of the voters,” the opposite is true. A healthy majority favor Newsom’s action, which also dismantled the state’s death chamber and withdrew its lethal injection protocol.

PPIC points out this is in sharp contrast to 2000, when California adults were evenly split on the issue with 47 percent favoring life imprisonment and 49 percent supporting the death penalty. We’ve come a long way in 19 years.

A second poll, released on Thursday, also shows a majority of California voters favoring life in prison over the death penalty. The Quinnipiac Poll found that 48 percent of California voters prefer life in prison with no chance of parole, with 41 percent preferring the death penalty for people convicted of murder.

“The strongest support for life without parole is in Los Angeles County, where 56 percent back life and 34 percent prefer death,” Quinnipiac reports. The strongest support for capital punishment is inland and in the Valley, it found.

As for Gov. Newsom’s moratorium, the poll found that Democrats support it 64 – 27 percent; Independents’ support is 50 – 41 percent; and Republicans are opposed 77 – 16.

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