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Pew Survey: Death Penalty Support Falls Below 50 Percent for First Time in 44 Years

Death Penalty
(Photo : Paige/Flickr/CC) For the first time since 1972, public support for death penalty declined below 50 percent.

A new survey by Pew Research Center found that for the first time in over four decades American support for the death penalty was no longer shared by a majority.

The poll shows that only 49 percent of Americans now say that capital punishment is justified for people convicted of murder, and only 42 percent oppose it. The support for the death penalty has declined by 7 percent since March 2015 when 56 percent were in favor of it, and 38 percent were against it.

In the mid-1990s, support for the death penalty was as high as 80 percent.

The Pew study, which has been tracing public opinion on capital punishment since 1936, shows that the only time opposition to the death penalty was higher than support was in 1966 when 47 percent of the people opposed it and 42 percent were in favor of it.

And the last time support for death penalty fell below 50 percent was in 1971.

Though the study indicates that overall support for the death penalty is on decline, different groups within the country are divided on the issue.

Republicans (72 percent) are more likely to agree with penalizing murder with death penalty than Democrats (34 percent).

About 20 years ago, both Republicans (87 percent) and Democrats (71 percent) backed the death penalty.

Support for capital punishment also varied among men and women. 55 percent of the men were in favor of death penalty, while only 38 percent of the women agreed to that.

At the same time, more white individuals (57 percent) approved the death penalty than African Americans (29 percent) and Hispanics (36 percent).

The view on capital punishment was more divided along religious lines as well.

There is still a wide support for death penalty among the white evangelical Protestants (69 percent) and white mainline Protestants (60 percent). Catholics (43 percent) were more likely to favor capital punishment than oppose it (46 percent).

About 50 percent of the religiously unaffiliated people opposed death penalty, and only 40 percent supported it.

The study was conducted on 1,201 adults between August 23 and September 2.

Tags Pew Survey, Death Penalty, Capital Execution

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