Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Public Opinion and the Death Penalty

Via Sociological Images, here is some interesting data on U.S. public opinion and the death penalty, from Gallup's "Americans Hold Firm to Support of the Death Penalty":

Are you in favor of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder?


For

Against

No opinion


%

%

%

2008 Oct 3-5

64

30

5


In your opinion, is the death penalty imposed --?


Too
often

About
the right
amount

Not
enough

No
opinion


%

%

%

%

2008 Oct 3-5

21

23

48

8


Generally speaking, do you believe the death penalty is applied fairly or unfairly in this country today?


Fairly

Unfairly

No opinion


%

%

%

2008 Oct 3-5

54

38

8


Do you feel that the death penalty acts as a deterrent to the commitment of murder, that it lowers the murder rate, or not?


Yes, does

No, does not

No opinion


%

%

%

2006 May 8-11

34

64

2


Why do you favor the death penalty for persons convicted of murder? [Open-ended]


May
19-21,
2003

Feb
19-21,
2001

Feb
14-15,
2000

Jun.
13-16,
1991


%

%

%

%

An eye for an eye/They took a life/Fits the crime

37

48

40

40

They deserve it

13

6

5

5

Save taxpayers money/Cost associated with prison

11

20

12

12

Deterrent for potential crimes/Set an example

11

10

8

8

They will repeat crime/Keep them from repeating it

7

6

4

4

Biblical reasons

5

3

3

3


Do you favor or oppose the death penalty for -- ?

Women


Favor

Oppose

No opinion





2002 May 6-9

68%

29

3

The mentally ill


Favor

Oppose

No opinion





2002 May 6-9

19%

75

6

The mentally retarded


Favor

Oppose

No opinion





2002 May 6-9

13%

82

5

Juveniles


Favor

Oppose

No opinion





2002 May 6-9

26%

69

5


Starting with the last category first, it's heartening to know that solid majorities are against executing juveniles, the mentally ill or the mentally retarded (although the 15%-26% of Americans who DO favor such a thing makes one shudder). But women seem to receive no break in the polls (68% favor whacking women), and a near majority (48%) don't feel it's applied enough.

While an easy majority admits the death penalty is NOT a deterrent (64%), most are satisfied with their support being based on good old fashioned retribution, "eye for an eye," Biblical principles (55% combined). More surprising are the numbers of Americans who still believe it actually "saves money" by executing someone (11%-20%).

These numbers explain why the reaction to the Rommell Broom debacle in Ohio last week seems to be generating more international interest and outrage than it does national (most of the hits this blog received on Broom's ignominious treatment have come from overseas).

It would also explain why the death penalty isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

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