Most Voters Prefer Alternatives to the Death Penalty

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new poll demonstrates that U.S. voters don’t consider the capital punishment a wise use of their tax dollars.  It also finds that most U.S. voters don’t consider the death penalty the most appropriate punishment for murder

1,500 registered voters were surveyed for this comprehensive study of public attitudes towards the death penalty, released today by the Death Penalty Information Center.  In the poll, 61% of the voters preferred alternatives to the death penalty as the more appropriate punishments for murder.  (39% favored life without parole plus restitution for the victim’s family, 13% just life without parole, and 9% life with the possibility of parole.)

When asked about their personal budget priorities, the list was long, and the death penalty was at the bottom of it.  More pressing priorities included: emergency services, creating jobs, police and crime prevention, schools and libraries, public health care services, and roads and transportation.

Polls which only ask whether the public is for or against the death penalty usually find a majority in support of capital punishment; but it is clear that when real world alternatives are included – alternative punishments and alternative uses of government resources – that support collapses.

The poll also reveals that most voters (62%) either don’t care how their representatives vote on the death penalty, or would likely support a legislator who voted to end capital punishment in their state. So legislators now considering death penalty abolition in Illinois, and those elected officials in several other states who will be in the same boat in 2011, can take heart and safely vote to end executions.