NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Public Support For The Death Penalty Is Firm

December 29, 2000

Despite negative media attention and publicly waffling conservatives, about two-thirds of Americans support the death penalty, provided it is justly applied, say observers.

It didn't look that way earlier this year.

  • In 1994, support for the death penalty was generally around 75 percent or so in most polls, but by the beginning of the year had dropped about 10 percentage points.
  • After a number of Illinois death row inmates were exonerated, Gov. George Ryan (R) halted executions.
  • And prominent conservatives Pat Robertson and George Will publicly expressed doubts about the death penalty.

Yet a recent Gallup poll found support for the death penalty now stands at 67 percent. (An August Washington Post poll found 69 percent support.)

And Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who presided over 152 executions, was elected president.

Texas has executed more inmates than any other state since 1976, although the death penalty is restricted to murders involving special circumstances -- e.g., of a police officer, young children, or during commission of another felony. However, DPD notes, hundreds of other Texas murderers have been freed after serving some time in prison because "life imprisonment without the possibility of parole" is not an option for murders that aren't eligible for the death penalty.

Source: Sean Higgins, "Death Penalty Is Still Popular in U.S., Despite Growing Campaign to End It," Investor's Business Daily, December 29, 2000.


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