For some time, with different polls and today, 80% of Americans support the death penalty, when the poll, properly, asks about specific "death penalty eligible" murders (1) , as opposed to asking the general question, about all murders, for which about 90% are not death penalty eligible.
Support is overwhelming for what the US has, now, which is a death penalty option in some, very limited cases, whereby the other option in those cases is LWOP, the actual sentencing options that judges or juries consider in these cases.
Death penalty support remains high, throughout the world (1).
Those who have lost loved ones to death penalty eligible murders, if not all murders, support the death penalty above 95%, based upon the anecdotal evidence (2).
The Question Matters, Just as the Murders Do
When Gallup asked about truly "death penalty eligible" murders, as with Timothy McVeigh’s mass murders in the Oklahoma City bombing, his execution was supported by 81%, while 16% opposed (Gallup 5/02/01).
With nearly identical polling dates (Gallup, 6/10/01), Gallup found 65% general support for executions for all murders, with 28% opposed (1).
Those Gallup polls found that death penalty opposition fell by 43% and support rose by 25% (1), when comparing polls of a specific death penalty eligible crime (more support. less opposition) to the category of all murders (less support, more opposition, still majority support).
Qinnipiac polling duplicates those results, within the same poll, with 67% death penalty support, 28% opposition, to the general question, with similar results since 2007. (poll question/answer #41 and TREND within 41, Dec 2011) (3).
Within that same poll, only 16% agreed that no one should be executed, with 83% death penalty support (based upon 10% supporting executions for all murders and 73% saying it depends upon the crime).
This has been the consistent response since 2000, as shown in #43 TREND, showing a 43% reduction in opposition and a 24% rise in support (3), almost identical to Gallup.
Many polls ask the general question, wrongly, about death penalty support for "all murders", which results in support ranging from 56-83% (1).
In 2010 and 2011 Angus-Reid polls found 83% and 81% death penalty support, respectively, to the "general" question (4, 5). Why these polls reflect the same results as specific "death penalty eligible" murder polls is a mystery.
Which is more accurate? Clearly, the specific death penalty eligible murders. Why?
The obvious reason is that the death penalty is only an option for "death penalty eligible" murders and that some 90% of all murders are not death penalty eligible, showing the primary error with the general question.
In addition, support for the death penalty is based upon a person being supportive of the sanction for one or some crimes, showing about 80% support.
To be opposed to the death penalty, you must be opposed to all death penalties, no matter how vile the crimes, showing about 15% support.
Connecticut, arguably the most liberal state in the US, follows that example, showing 85% support for serial rapist/murderer Michael Ross' execution. with 82% death penalty support, on average, since 2000, with 16% opposition in those same polls (3) .
The polling questions which are most likely to provide those specifics are the ones dealing with the worst crimes.
The questions should be:
1) Do you support the death penalty for SOME crimes, such as the rape/torture/murders of children and families, serial and mass murderers, such as the 9/11 attacks, which murdered nearly 3000, John Wayne Gacy, who raped/tortured/murdered 33 young men and boys, Timothy McVeigh, whose bombing murdered 168, including 19 children under 6 and injured nearly 700, etc.?
2) Are you opposed to the death penalty in ALL murder cases, inclusive of the examples, above?
That produces a more accurate picture of who supports the death penalty and who is opposed to it, about 80% and 15%, respectively.
Another Gallup Example
A recent Gallup poll (2011 Oct 6-9), found 61% support and 35% opposition in response to the general question death penalty question (6).
Based upon the consistent examples, above, as with others (1), that equates to 76% support and 20% opposition, for truly "death penalty eligible" crimes, whereby death penalty opposition drops 43% and death penalty support rises by 24-25%.
From 2001-2011, the Gallup morally acceptable poll has averaged 70% support for the general question (6), suggesting the moral question, in the proper context of "death penalty eligible murders", would also likely rise to the 80% level.
With rare exception, that being the 10% who support executions for all murderers, most folks are more selective with their death penalty support, just as death penalty statutes restrict its application, with very few murders being subject to the death penalty.
Many folks who claim to be death penalty opponents are no such thing, just as the polls show us, whereby there is a 24% jump in death penalty support and a 43% reduction in death penalty opposition, when the crimes are particularly heinous.
Such folks are not death penalty opponents but, instead they reflect moral considerations based upon the degree of suffering and/or the number of murder victims.
92% of police chiefs support the death penalty, with only 4% opposition (7).
Polling Errors: LWOP vs The Death Penalty
Both Gallup and Quinnipiac have this poll (as others), with similar problems.
Let's look at the Quinnipiac question:
"42. Which punishment do you prefer for people convicted of murder, the death penalty or life in prison with no chance of parole?" (1)
and the response:
48% prefer the death penalty, 43% prefer Life without parole (3)
First, the question has a problem.
There is no such sanction as life in prison "with no chance of parole." All sanctions can be changed, to the benefit of the inmate, by legislative action, in addition to the executive branch having the ability to commute, pardon or parole any inmate, regardless of sentence, as with Illinois, whereby death row was vacated by the arbitrary actions of Governor Ryan. This question error, obviously, may skew the results of the poll, by implying a benefit to a life sentence which does not exist.
It's as wrong headed as saying there is such a sentence as the "death penalty with no chance of release".
Secondly, this is a PREFERENCE poll, not an EXCLUSION poll.
Representatives of Gallup and Quinnipiac (among others), wrongly, enter their personal opinions into the fray, have found that this poll reflects lower support for the death penalty. Untrue. Nor does it show lower support (43%) for LWOP, either, as is obvious.
The 48% who prefer the death penalty are not rejecting a life sentence and the 43% who prefer a life sentence are not rejecting a death sentence.
I use this clear example. Which do you prefer, vanilla or chocolate ice cream?
48% prefer vanilla ice cream, 43% prefer chocolate. No one wants to exclude either flavor. 100% wanting to retain both vanilla and chocolate. 9% have no preference of one over the other.
Just as 48% prefer the death penalty and 43% prefer a life sentence, with 83% wanting to retain both sanctions (2), with only 16% rejecting the death penalty in all cases . 9% can't make up their mind (1).
Put it another way, the 83% who support the death penalty still reside within the 48% who prefer the death penalty and within the 43% who prefer LWOP, just as the 16% who always oppose the death penalty reside within the 43% who prefer LWOP. Very obvious.
As 83% in Ct support the death penalty, it is likely those same 83% also support LWOP, as well. In other words, 83% in Ct support the system that Ct has now, the option of selecting either the death penalty or LWOP, in death penalty eligible trials.
It is interesting and goes to bias, that I have never heard either Gallup, Quinnipiac, or other, representatives suggest that this poll also shows reduced support for LWOP, as they have said it does for the death penalty.
Of course, to any neutral observer, it would be ridiculous to suggest that there was reduced support for LWOP, which 43% prefer, when, at the same time, death penalty support ranges from is 67-83%. Obviously, LWOP is going to be supported at rates above the 67-83% range and that same LWOP support stays the same within the preference poll.
Life Without Parole Plus Restitution
There have been a few polls showing a "preference" for life sentences with restitution to the victim's survivors..
I am certain that the respondents to this poll have no idea how grotesque it is.
Let's say your daughter was raped and murdered. On what days would you like to receive that $30/month check from that rapist/murderer? Her birthday? Your birthday or wedding anniversary? The day she would have graduated from high school?
Is there any day you would want to open that letter and hold that check from the man who raped and murdered your daughter?
Think about it.
Innocence Issues: No Effect on Death Penalty Support?
Everyone wants to protect innocents.
A Nov. 2010 poll showed that a large majority, 81%, believes that innocents have been executed and, with that same group, responding to the "general" death penalty question, found 83% death penalty support and 13% opposition. (3).
That shows no evidence that the US population has turned away from executions based upon the, largely, misleading innocence claims by anti death penalty folks (8).
Depending upon review, possibly 25-40 actual innocents have been sentenced to death since 1973. Not 140 (7). That is a 99.6% accuracy rate in convictions, with all of those so identified as actually innocent being released. That seems like a very admirable record, which would fuel confidence.
There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US. at least since the 1930s.
The facts tell us that the death penalty is a greater protector of innocents, than is LWOP (8), a reality which would result in even more support for the death penalty.
New death sentences were at 35 year low in 2010, primarily, because murders were at a 43 year low, murder rates at a 48 year low (9).
NOTE: I suspect that the high support for the death penalty, which survives even when respondents are certain of innocents executed, is because of their understanding that many innocents die with government oversight, such as 40,000-100,000/yr dying because of medical misadventure or from 40,000-200,000 innocents being murdered by those under the government supervision of parole or probation since 1973 (10).
(1) "Death Penalty Support Remains Very High: USA & The World"
(2) The terrorist bomb attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, in Oklahoma City, claimed 168 lives, including 19 children under the age of 6, and injured more than 680 people, many with catastrophic injuries. Of the 1680 loved ones who lost family/friends in that bombing I am aware of only one who opposed the execution of bomber/murderer, Timothy McVeigh.
More than 84 would have to be opposed to his execution to take death penalty support below 95%.
There were 2977 murders in the 9/11 attacks. Additional victims are still being added. Of the 29,770 loved ones who lost family/friends in that terrorist attack, I am aware of none that opposed the killing of Bin Laden, or that opposes a death sentence for those who helped to plan the 9/11 attacks.
More than 1488 would have to oppose the death penalty in this case to take death penalty support below 95%.
NOTE: I used a factor of ten to calculate the number of closest family/friends to each victim.
(3) RELEASE, March 10, 2011 - "Death Penalty Support At New High In Connecticut, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Voters High On Medical Marijuana, Sunday Liquor Sales" http://www.quinnipiac.edu/institutes-and-centers/polling-institute/connecticut/release-detail?ReleaseID=1566
Within poll number 43 and the TREND within poll 43,
NOTE: In 2011, the Quinnipiac Poll (2) finds 83% support the death penalty, that percentage is the combination of (a) death penalty support for all murderers (10%) and (b) (it depends upon the circumstances) crimes (73%). Only 16% oppose the death penalty in all circumstances, as per question and answer number 43, from the March 10, 2011 (1).
82% support and 16% opposition, is the average of polling since 2000, using those same combinations.
(4) "(83% of) Americans Support Punishing Murder with the Death Penalty", Angus Reid Poll, 11/09/10,
(5) 80% US death penalty support, 12% opposed – 10/4/11 poll
(6) Gallup, Death Penalty (overview), November 30, 2011 Updated 04:00 AM ET
In that same Gallup 2011 Oct 6-9 "61% support poll" poll, the moral acceptance of the death penalty was at 70%, based upon "Morally acceptable" plus "depends on situation" answers, with 28% finding it "Morally wrong" and 67% support based upon the death penalty being imposed "About the right amount" plus "not enough" answers, with 25% finding it applied "Too often".
(7) On the Front Line: Law Enforcement Views on the Death Penalty, Death Penalty Information Center, from a January, 1995 poll by Peter D. Hart Research Associates of US police chiefs.
(8) a. The 130 (now 140) death row "innocents" scam
b. "The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents"
c. Innocents More At Risk Without Death Penalty
d. "Opponents in capital punishment have blood on their hands, Dennis Prager", 11/29/05, http://townhall.com/columnists/DennisPrager/2005/11/29/opponents_in_capital_punishment_have_blood_on_their_hands
e. "A Death Penalty Red Herring: The Inanity and Hypocrisy of Perfection", Lester Jackson Ph.D., http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=102909A
f. "The Innocent Executed: Deception & Death Penalty Opponents"
g. "The innocence tactic: Unreliable studies and disinformation", reports By United States Congress, Senate, 107th Congress, 2d Session, Calender no 731, Report 107-315. The Innocence Protection Act of 2002, (iv) The innocence tactic: Unreliable studies and disinformation, p 65-69, http://alturl.com/6j7oc
(9) Crimes and Crime Rates, United States
(10) Innocents More At Risk Without Death Penalty