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Do Christians Support the Death Penalty? Poll Finds Big Generational Divide


Should "government ... have the option to execute the worst criminals?"

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The death penalty is a contentious issue with multiple layers that collide to create a complicated picture, especially when it comes to public perception. Among the religious, demographics and theology further complicate the stances that the masses have on executions.

In analyzing recent data from the Barna Group, a research firm that assesses issues pertaining to faith, Religion News Services' Jonathan Merritt noted that there is a big generational difference when it comes to Christians' views on capital punishment.

When asked if "the government should have the option to execute the worst criminals," only 32 percent of self-identified Christian millennials (individuals born between 1980 and 2000), answered affirmatively. This compares to 42 percent of self-identified Christian boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964).

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But the divide grew even larger among the cohorts when Barna analyzed the views of "practicing Christians." These are individuals who said that faith is very important in their lives and who attended church at least once in the month leading up to the data collection last summer, Merritt noted.

The gap in this case grew from nearly half of practicing Christian boomers supporting the death penalty verses only 23 percent of practicing Christian millennials.

This may all be part of the changing trends involving the public's views on capital punishment. In the mid 1990s, Gallup found that 80 percent of the general public favored the death penalty for those convicted of murder, while only 16 percent opposed this punishment.

The latest data shows, though, that while 60 percent currently support this, 35 percent do not. The historical trend is below:

Image source: Gallup

It's likely these changes in the general public carry through to Christians as well, though believers are also tasked with asking how Jesus -- the centerpiece of the faith -- would see capital punishment. Barna found that only five percent of Americans believe Jesus would support the death penalty.

The Barna Group's results are based on a survey of 1,000 American adults and have a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

(H/T: Religion News Service)


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