Americans' support for the death penalty as punishment for murder has plateaued in the low 60s in recent years, after several years in which support was diminishing. Sixty-three percent now favor the death penalty as the punishment for murder, similar to 61% in 2011 and 64% in 2010.
Gallup first asked Americans for their views on the death penalty using this question in 1936, and has asked it at least annually since 1999. The latest results come from a Dec. 19-22, 2012, USA Today/Gallup survey, conducted in the first few days after the Newtown, Conn., school shooting massacre.
Although views on the death penalty have been fairly static since 2010, support has been gradually diminishing since the high point in 1994, when 80% were in favor. By 2001, roughly two-thirds were in favor, and since then it has edged closer to 60%.
The death penalty is not relevant in the Newtown case, given that the lone gunman took his own life after his rampage; however, the tragedy could have influenced Americans' thoughts about capital punishment and may be a reason support for it held steady this year, rather than declining any further.As with so many issues, opinion has become more polarized by party:
Additionally, the trend differs by party ID, with support dropping most precipitously among Democrats, from 59% in 2001 to 51% today.
Gallup found a dip in support for the death penalty among independents in 2003, but their views since returned to prior levels and, at 65%, independents' current support for the death penalty is similar to what it was in 2001. At 80%, Republicans' current support also matches the 2001 level.Even in deep-blue California, voters still support the death penalty. In the 2012 election, as Barack Obama was winning the state by 23 percentage points, a measure to repeal capital punishment went down to defeat, 52-48 percent.