Protesters try to stop an execution in Texas © Scott Langley
This May, a Gallup poll showed that only 58% of respondents find the death penalty morally acceptable, a 7% drop from last year and the lowest number since the morality question was first asked in 2001.
This follows a 2010 poll from the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) that showed, when given choices, two-thirds support alternatives to the death penalty. Gallup’s non-morality based poll on the death penalty in 2011, which didn’t offer alternatives, still showed the lowest support for capital punishment since 1972. That poll was conducted soon after the controversial September 21st execution of Troy Davis despite serious doubts about his guilt.
The question of innocence
Is the drop in belief in the morality of the death penalty related to a growing belief that the innocent can be executed? There have been 140 people exonerated from U.S. death row since 1973.
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A USA Today/Gallup Poll published earlier this week found a strong desire amongst Americans for investigations into human rights abuses committed during the Global war on Terror by the Bush administration. 38% of those interviewed expressed a preference for criminal investigations into these abuses. 24% favored a truthfinding inquiry without prosecutions.
While the Obama administration continues to argue for looking forward rather than back, the argument for accountability is gaining momentum propelled by the initiatives in the House and the Senate to investigate Bush era abuses. The USA Today/Gallup Poll suggests that Senator Leahy and Representative Conyers are better in tune with the mood of the country than the Obama White House. Republican Senator Arlen Specter spoke out against accountability this week arguing, “this is not Latin America.” How true, Latin American countries like Guatemala, Chile and Argentina have demonstrated the strength of their national character by examining the human rights abuses that occurred on their soil. The United States has yet to measure up to that standard. The American people want accountability – the administration should heed their call.