Support for death penalty lowest in 40 years

With the death penalty still legal in 31 states across American, new research has found that under a half of Americans (49%) actually favour the death penalty for those convicted of murder, whilst 42% strongly oppose it. 

Support for death row has dropped by 7% since March 2015, from 56%. 


In the mid 1990’s, public support for capital punishment peaked, with 8 out of 10 Americans (80% in 1994) agreeing with the death penalty, with fewer that 2 in 10 opposing it (16%). Opposition to the death penalty in America is the highest it has been since 1972.

The recent figures come from Pew Research Centre which conducted the survey this year between August 23rd and September 2nd amongst 1,201 American adults. 

screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-09-18-16While the overall rate has fallen considerably since the mid-nineties, politics still play a big role in who supports the death penalty and who doesn’t. In the Pew poll, 34% of Democrats said they support it while 72% of Republicans did.

One theory to explain the declining level of support for the death penalty is the negative press that surrounds the most popular form of conducting the death penalty: legal injection. 

In 2014, multiple inmates on death row were the victims of botched executions when the cocktail of drugs meant to sedate, paralyze, and ultimately kill the men failed to work properly. Some inmates struggled for an hour or more, convulsing on the sedation table before coroners eventually declared them dead of a heart attack.

In the two years since, the US federal government has yet to come up with a widely agreed upon alternative to lethal injection drugs, and so fewer executions are being carried out overall.

In 1999, 98 people received the death penalty. So far this year, only 15 have met the same fate.


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