Sixty-five percent of Americans continue to support the use of the death penalty for persons convicted of murder, while 31 percent oppose it — continuing a trend that has shown little change over the last six years, reports the Gallup polling organization. Death penalty opponents note that just five countries — China, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. — carry out most of the known executions around the world, and that the number of countries that still allow the death penalty has been dwindling. Still, Gallup’s annual October update on Americans’ attitudes toward the death penalty shows no diminution in support for state-sanctioned executions in cases of murder.
Opponents of the death penalty argue that it is applied unfairly — that members of certain minority groups are more likely to receive the death penalty than others convicted of the same crimes, or that the arbitrary differences in trial procedures, judges, and jurisdictions can make a difference in who receives the death penalty and who doesn’t. Still, a majority of Americans — 57 percent — say they believe the death penalty is applied fairly, while 34 percent say it is applied unfairly. The “fairly” percentage is down slightly from the decade’s high point of 61% in 2005.