Support for the death penalty fell by 7 percentage points, from 56% reported in Pew’s 2015 poll—an overall decline of 12%.42% of respondents told Pew that they oppose capital punishment, the highest level of opposition ever recorded by Pew and the highest since a May 1966 Gallup poll reported 47% of Americans against the death penalty.Although 72% of Republicans told Pew they favored capital punishment, Republican support for the death penalty dropped 5 points between the 20 polls.Since 2011, support for the death penalty has declined among every demographic group, with overall support falling by 13 points.
However, long-term death-penalty support among Independents fell 10 percentage points, as compared to the 68% who told Gallup they supported the death penalty in 2000. It was the lowest level of death-penalty support in the history of Pew’s polling on the subject, dating back to 1996, and the first time since 49% of respondents told the Gallup poll in November 1971 that they supported capital punishment that a national poll had registered death-penalty support below 50%.Professor Robert Smith, an assistant professor of law at the University of North Carolina who commissioned the poll, said, "Today's important polling is part of significant new research which clearly shows an emerging consensus against using capital punishment in cases where the defendant is mentally ill. Combining this public polling, sentencing practices, and the recommendations of the mental health medical community, it's clear that a consensus is emerging against the execution of a person like Scott Panetti, who suffers from a debilitating (mental) illness ...." Opposition to the execution of people with mental illness was strong across lines of race, gender, geographic region, political affiliation, and education.Democrats (62%), Republicans (59%) and Independents (51%) all opposed the practice.The Pew poll reported declining support for the death penalty across every demographic group in 2016, with the largest decline (13 percentage points) recorded among Independents.Majorities of Blacks (63%), Hispanics (50%), 18-29 year-olds (51%), college graduates (51%), Democrats (58%), and people with no religious affiliation (50%) said they opposed the death penalty, and—while comprising less than a majority—more women, Independents, and Catholics said they opposed the death penalty than said they supported it.The poll results also appeared to reflect generational changes.In 2011, 59% of those aged 18-29 said they supported the death penalty; by 2015, support among the young had fallen to 51% and it dropped another 9 percentage points to 42% in 2016. Oliphant, "Support for death penalty lowest in more than four decades," Pew Research Center, September 29, 2016.) National Polls Show Historic Declines in Support for Death Penalty Polls released in April 2015 by Pew Research Center and CBS News showed that public support for the death penalty has declined to near historic lows.("Less Support for Death Penalty, Especially Among Democrats," Pew Research Center, April 16, 2015; S. By an 18 percentage-point margin, Americans believed that the gas chamber is cruel and unusual (52% vs.34%); a 20 percentage-point margin considered firing squad to be cruel and unusual (53% vs.When offered the alternative punishment of life without parole, respondents are about evenly split, with 50% favoring the death penalty and 45% favoring life without parole.Gallup highlighted the dramatic drop in support since the 1990's, saying, "These trends toward diminished support seem to be reflected in state death penalty laws, as six U. states have abolished the death penalty since 2007, and no new states have adopted it." Click here for a statement on the poll from DPIC's Executive Director, Richard Dieter. Jones, "Americans' Support for Death Penalty Stable" Gallup, October 23, 2014.) Poll Finds Majority Support for Life in Prison Over Death Penalty A new poll by ABC News and the Washington Post finds that a majority of Americans prefer life without parole (52%) as punishment for convicted murderers, with just 42% preferring the death penalty.