Death penalty

Death penalty support at 40-year low, poll finds

Popular support for the death penalty has dropped to 60 percent, its lowest point in more than 40 years, a new poll shows.

It is the lowest level of support Gallup has found since November 1972, when 57 percent of Americans favored capital punishment, according to this press release.

Support for the death penalty peaked at 80 percent in 1994, but has been dropping ever since, polls show.

Gallup has been polling Americans about their views on the death penalty since 1936, and has updated those figures periodically in the years since, including annual updates beginning in 1999.

Americans have typically favored the death penalty by a wide margin, Gallup says, except in one year, 1966, when opposition exceeded support by 47 percent to 42 percent.

The current era of lower support may be tied to the death penalty moratoriums implemented in several states beginning in the early 2000s, after several death row inmates were later found to be innocent, Gallup says. Since 2006, it notes, six states have repealed their death penalty laws outright.

The number of death row inmates exonerated since 1973 rose last week to 143, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, with the dismissal of murder charges against Reginald Griffin, who had been sentenced to death for the 1983 murder of a fellow inmate at a Missouri state prison.

No physical evidence implicated Griffin in the murder, and evidence uncovered later revealed that guards had confiscated a sharpened screwdriver from another inmate as he was leaving the area where the victim had been stabbed to death, the DPIC says.

Hat tip to How Appealing.

Updated at 4:33 p.m. to include news of Griffin’s exoneration.

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