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Poll: Support for the death penalty drops to lowest rate in 45 years

A new Gallup poll measured people's support of the death penalty for convicted murderers, and 55 percent of respondents said yes, the lowest rate since 1972. The poll attributed this year’s dip in support for the practice to a growing number of Democrats who oppose it. (2001 file photo/Mike Simons/Getty Images)

Public support for the death penalty had dipped to its lowest level in 45 years, according to a new Gallup poll.

What did the poll find?

Asked if they support the death penalty for convicted murderers, 55 percent of respondents said yes, the lowest rate since 1972.

Just 39 percent of Democrats said they approve of the death penalty compared to 72 percent of Republicans. Meanwhile, 58 percent of independents support capital punishment.

Asked if the death penalty is applied fairly, a slim majority — 51 percent — said it is used fairly, while 43 percent said it is used unfairly.

Thirty-nine percent said the death penalty is not imposed often enough, while 26 percent said it is used too frequently. Another 26 percent said it is currently used “about right.”

What does it mean?

Though a majority support capital punishment, the number reflects a continuing trend of diminishing support for the practice.

Gallup said since it began asking about the use of the death penalty for convicted murderers in 1936, support has generally remained around 60 percent, occasionally dipping as low as 42 percent or as high as 80 percent. The poll attributed this year’s dip in support for the practice to a growing number of Democrats who oppose it.

Gallup noted that some states have abolished the death penalty and the number of executions taking place has declined in recent years.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the practice is currently legal in 31 states.

The Gallup poll results are based on telephone interviews conducted Oct. 5-11 from a random sample of 1,028 adults.

One last thing…
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