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Gallup and Rasmussen Close on DP

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I noted previously that a Rasmussen poll  taken shortly after the Troy Davis execution showed no statistically significant drop in support for the death penalty, finding that 60% approved.  Today, Gallup came out with its survey, showing a nearly identical 61% approval.  That is, however, a small drop from last year's poll, which showed 64% approval.  It is also the smallest number since the Furman case, which for practical purposes temporarily abolished the death penalty in 1972.  (Unlike DPIC, C&C declines to spin either news or numbers.  A drop is a drop).

That said, Gallup  finds that two-thirds of the public believes the death penalty is imposed either the right amount or not often enough, with the latter view considerably outweighing the former.  The specific numbers are:  Not enough  --  40%; about right  --  27%; and too often  --  25%.  And at 61%, the death penalty continues to have the highest approval of any contentious issue in public life.

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As Kent has pointed out in the past, the problem is with the abstract question asked. Gallup's question simply asks if you favor the death penalty for murder. Of course, the death penalty is not imposed simply because a defendant is convicted of murder. Rather, there is always a consideration of the aggravating and mitigating circumstances of the crime. It is instructive that Gallup notes how much support the death penalty increases when the question references a specific case, such as the Oklahoma City bombing. My guess is that this poll data under reports support for capital punishment.

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