Criminal justice

How much support is there for the death penalty?

Posted in Criminal justice on September 10th, 2011 by Leo – Comments Off on How much support is there for the death penalty?

Few would have predicted that a petition opposing the death penalty could collect more signatures than one to restore capital punishment. It’s surprising because the country is generally assumed to want to bring back death penalty, and restoration is only held back by politicians with different values.

The various polls on the death penalty suggest that restoration does indeed have general support. But that support isn’t overwhelming, and for a substantial proportion depends on certain conditions.

At a basic level, if we ask whether the death penalty should be permitted for certain, specific, crimes, we find pretty consistent support:

So there’s a clear majority in favour of restoration for some crimes.

Yet for this level of support, the phrasing does need to limit restoration to specific cases. If, instead of focusing on extreme cases, the question suggests bringing back the death penalty for murder in general, support is lower:

This reflects what we might expect: a sizable part of those who want restoration would only want the death penalty to be applicable in certain fairly extreme cases.

As we might also expect, the split between supporters and opponents has quite strong demographic differences. In general, it’s the older and those in social groups D and E who support restoration.

That may not be surprising, but there is also an interesting political difference.

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