Recently in Polls Category
This report comes from Gallup's annual survey on moral acceptability of various issues, and Americans' views on the death penalty have proven remarkably stable. I noted this survey on the blog in 2010, and not much has changed. Here is an updated graph. Click for a larger view.
Given that current law only allows for the death penalty for an aggravated subset of murders and only after considering the defendant's case in mitigation, I consider the sum of "acceptable" and "it depends" to be the proper measure of support for the death penalty as it exists in America today. The "depends," BTW, is a "volunteered" answer, given by people who break out of the choices offered by the question to give their own. These numbers would surely be higher if the choice were offered in the question.
The variation over the last 13 years has barely budged outside the 4% sampling error confidence interval.
Last August, Gallup Editor-in-Chief Frank Newport made this short video about how polling shows that public opinion is highly changeable on some issues while it changes very little on others. Of all the issues Gallup surveys on, Newport chose the death penalty as his example of stability of public opinion.
A comfortable majority of those questioned -- 59% -- said they favor the death penalty as the ultimate punishment for murder, while 35% said they are opposed.
That split is in line with surveys done before Lockett's death in the last two years, and also reflects the erosion of support for capital punishment since the 1990s, when it was more than 70%."I don't think this fundamentally altered views about the death penalty," said Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies.
A majority of doctors say that medical marijuana should be legalized nationally and that it can deliver real benefits to patients, a new survey by WebMD/Medscape finds.
WebMD's web site for health professionals surveyed 1,544 doctors as more than 10 states consider bills to legalize medical marijuana. It is already legal in 21 states and Washington, DC.
Now this got me a little suspicious, since (1) the AMA only recently came out against legalization, saying point-blank that pot is a "dangerous drug," and (2) I couldn't figure out how a website could conduct a random survey.
Here's the trick. Way down at the very end, the WebMD entry says this (emphasis added): "WebMD's survey was completed by 2,960 random site visitors from Feb. 23 to 26, 2014. It has a margin of error of +/- 1.8%."
How cute. There is no such thing as a "random" site visitor. The people who visit a site are the ones who decide to click on it, and the people who decide to answer a poll on said site are the even narrower subset of those who want to be heard.
In other words, this "poll" has all the validity of a Glenn Beck site poll asking "random site visitors" whether Obama should be impeached. Anyone wanna guess the answer?
Americans feel even more strongly that the biggest problem with the criminal justice system is that too many criminals are set free. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 68% of U.S. adults believe that the bigger problem with law enforcement and the legal system is that too many criminals are released, not that too many innocent people are arrested. Eighteen percent (18%) hold the opposite view and think the bigger problem is that too many innocent people are arrested. Fifteen percent (15%) are undecided.
As I have noted several times on this blog, the main problem in death penalty polling is that the questions often fail to distinguish between the penalty for the typical murder, which most people agree should be life in prison, and the penalty for the worst murders, which is the actual point of debate.
The generic question in death penalty polls, which Gallup has been asking since the 30s, goes something like Question 40 in this poll, "Do you favor or oppose the death penalty for persons convicted of murder?" This question understates actual support for the death penalty for the worst murders, merely asking about murder generally. Even phrased that way, however, the death penalty is favored by more than a 2-to-1 margin, 68-26. The death penalty is heavily favored in every political affiliation, both sexes, and every age group.
So what does the heading of the press release say? "Voters Divided on Death Penalty"
To get "divided," it is necessary to skew the question to the max in favor of the anti side.
As I have noted before here, though, the traditional question is deficient in that it could be understood to be asking about the death penalty for all murders or the typical murder. I would answer "no" to the question, so understood, myself.
Another question Gallup asks better reflects the actual policy question of whether we should impose the death penalty on the worst murderers: "In your opinion, is the death penalty imposed -- [ROTATED: too often, about the right amount, or not often enough]?" The sum of right+not enough constitutes support for the death penalty as it presently is or tougher.
By this measure, support is up a tad since 2011, the last time Gallup asked the question, and opposition is down a tad. "Right" + "not enough" totals 70%, up from 67%, while "too often" slips from 25% to 22%.
Some people argue that the death penalty should be repealed because it is too complicated and rarely enforced. Regulations have cost taxpayers millions of dollars because inmates must be kept in separate cells, and the appeal process is long and costly. Life in prison will be cheaper for taxpayers.The first statement is essentially the argument for Proposition 34, death penalty repeal, on last year's California ballot. The second is the "mend it, don't end it" position.
Others say that we should keep the death penalty in California but reform it to reduce the number of frivolous appeals and lengthy delays. Death row prisoners should not get expensive special treatment, like private cells, and should be forced to work and make restitution to their victim's families. Instead of repealing the death penalty, we should fix the system so that it is enforced.
Which of these two views do you agree with more -- the first statement or the second statement?
The anti-DP propaganda machine wants you to think that public support for the death penalty is collapsing. The people who poll as a profession don't think so.
As I have explained previously, Gallup's basic question understates actual support for the death penalty. It is useful for examining long-term trends, though, simply because of the length of time Gallup has been asking it.
I think this story is notable and significant not only because a notable NYC politician is making a public case for marijuana legalization, but also because it seems likely to get this mayoral candidate a lot more media attention in the weeks and months ahead. And if this pot legalization advocacy not only improves Liu's media hits, but also his overall standing in the mayoral [polls], lots of other politician are sure to take note.
OK, that's cool. So let's take a look at Mr. Liu's polling these days.
A: When a person has a disease that cannot be cured, do you think doctors should be allowed by law to end the patient's life by some painless means if the patient and his or her family request it?Substantially the same question, right? The two questions should produce the same result, right?
B. When a person has a disease that cannot be cured and is living in severe pain, do you think doctors should or should not be allowed by law to assist the patient to commit suicide if the patient requests it?
When the poll asked the question most polls have asked, "do you favor or oppose the death penalty for people convicted of murder?" the result was 54-41. However, when they asked the same people the actual question to be decided, "Which view is closer to your own, that Maryland law should allow for the death penalty or should the death penalty be abolished and replaced with life in prison with no chance of parole?" the result was 60-36.
This confirms, as we have noted several times on this blog, that the traditional poll question wording understates the actual support for the death penalty. The question could be understood to ask about death for all murders, when the actual question is only whether that penalty should be available for the worst murders.
Fortunately, Maryland has a procedure to put the question on the ballot. The people of Maryland, unlike the people of Connecticut, can overturn their legislators if they vote contrary to the wishes of the people.