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Cherry-Picking Data

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GallupDPGraph0810.gif

Carol Williams has this story in the L.A. Times.  "A majority of Californians still favor the death penalty, but their support has waned from 79% to 66% over the last two decades as fears of executing the wrongly convicted escalate, a researcher reported Tuesday."

Two decades? Why pick 1989 as the reference point? As the above graph from Gallup shows, the all-time high in support for the death penalty was in the late 1980s to early 1990s. Pick a number, any number. If you want to claim it is "down," just compare the present value to the all-time high. Similarly, if you want to claim it is "up," just compare the present value with the all-time low. If we were dishonest and wished to mislead, we would pump out press releases saying "support for the death penalty is up 22%," using 1967 as the reference point.

Gallup's last full report on the death penalty, last November, is here. The headline reads, "Americans Hold Firm to Support for Death Penalty." My post on that report is here.

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If she had written ". . . but their support has waned from an all time high of 79% to 66%", would you be ok?

Additionally, I have issues with the "as fears of executing [the innocent]". What's really remarkable is that capital punishment has remained widely approved despite all the attempts to thwart it. That, I think, is far more remarkable than the truism that a human system may make mistakes.

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