A record-low 54% of Americans consider the death penalty to be morally acceptable, marking a six-percentage-point decrease since last year. This finding, from Gallup's May 1-13 Values and Beliefs poll, is in line with polling last fall that showed decreased public support for the death penalty and a record-high preference for life imprisonment over the death penalty as a better punishment for murder.
Gallup has measured Americans' beliefs about the moral acceptability of the death penalty and numerous other social issues each May since 2001.
This year, 40% of U.S. adults think the death penalty is morally wrong, the highest in Gallup's 20-year trend. The high point in the public's belief that the death penalty is morally acceptable, 71%, was in 2006. That year and again in 2007, it topped the list of issues rated for moral acceptability.
The latest decrease in the public's tolerance for the death penalty is largely owed to political liberals and moderates. While two-thirds of conservatives still consider it to be morally acceptable, moderates (56%) and liberals (37%) are at their lowest levels since 2001.
Just as views of the death penalty are sharply divided depending on Americans' ideological identification, so too are many of the other issues measured. Abortion remains the most ideologically polarizing issue asked about, with 70% of liberals and 18% of conservatives classifying it as morally acceptable. Gay or lesbian relations and teenage sex are the next most divisive issues, with acceptability gaps of 41 and 40 percentage points, respectively.