Pew Poll shows decline in support for the death penalty

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Support for the death penalty declined to 60% from 2020 when 65% were in favor, although a majority of Americans still support capital punishment “despite widespread doubts about its administration, fairness, and whether it deters serious crimes,” according to a recent Pew Research poll.

According to the poll, released in June, 60% favor capital punishment for people convicted of murder, with 39% opposed. Surprisingly, 78% say there is some risk that an innocent person will be executed, while only 21% believe “there are adequate safeguards to ensure” no innocent people will be put to death. And a majority (56% vs. 41%) believe Black people are more likely than white people to be sentenced to death for the same crime.

And, 63% of all those surveyed said they don’t believe the death penalty is a deterrent.

Party affiliation is a major factor in opinions about the death penalty. Seventy-seven percent of Republicans support the death penalty, while 53% of Democrats are opposed.

The poll indicates that those surveyed overall believe capital punishment is morally justified when the crime is murder.

However, a Washington Post article last week, “If Biden abolishes the federal death penalty, he’ll have more support than you think,” analyzed 595 public opinion surveys from 1936 to 2021 and found that “public opinion toward the death penalty has soured even more quickly in the past two decades than it grew in the decades before.” And if the Biden administration does commute federal death row, which it is reportedly considering, it will do it at a time when the public “now opposes the death penalty more than at any time in the previous 50 years,” according to the Post.

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