A new Gallup poll has found that support for the death penalty has fallen to its lowest point in 45 years, with only 55% of adults in the U.S. saying they favor capital punishment for convicted murders. While numerous factors might be behind the diminishing support, including high-profile instances of states rushing to execute prisoners before their lethal injection serum expired, the amount of support depends in large part on political affiliation.
New Poll Shows Decreasing Support for Capital Punishment
The Gallup poll, which was conducted via telephone between October 5 and 11, 2017, asked a random sampling of 1,028 adults a series of 3 questions:
- Are you in favor of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder?
- In your opinion, is the death penalty imposed too often, about the right amount, or not often enough?
- Generally speaking, do you believe the death penalty is applied fairly or unfairly in this country today?
The results, which have a margin of error of 4 percentage points, found that:
- 55% of Americans are in favor of the death penalty for those convicted of murder, while 41% oppose it,
- 39% say the death penalty is not used often enough, while 26% say it's used too often, and 26% more say it's used about the right amount, and
- 51% of American adults think that the death penalty is applied fairly, while 43% think it's applied unfairly.
Breaking Down the Poll Numbers
Much more information can be gleaned from the Gallup poll, though, based on how these responses on the death penalty correlate with responses to other questions asked during the poll.
For example, affiliation with a political party is a significant indicator of how respondents in the poll felt about capital punishment. Only 39% of Democrats favored the death penalty, while 58% of independents and 72% of Republicans supported it.
Nevertheless, the Gallup poll found that support for the death penalty was down, across the board. Since 2000, Republican support for capital punishment was usually in the high-70s to low-80s before crashing to 72% in the most recent poll. Democrat support was usually in the mid-to-low-50s before falling to 39%, while independents typically polled in the mid-60s before coming in at 58% in support of capital punishment, this year.
Maine Doesn't Allow the Death Penalty
While fascinating, these numbers are, to an extent, irrelevant in the state of Maine, which was the third state in the U.S. to abolish the death penalty way back in 1887. The last attempt to bring capital punishment back to our state was in 1979, but the law never made it through the state legislature.
Maine Criminal Defense Attorney William T. Bly
Just because the death penalty is never on the table in a criminal case in the state of Maine does not mean that the penalties for a conviction are not extremely high. In all cases, they can be life-changing.