A majority of Americans favor the death penalty for some murder convictions, but support for capital punishment is as low as it has been in the past 40 years, says the Pew Research Center. A new survey finds 56 percent favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder, while 38 percent are opposed. The percentage supporting the death penalty has declined six points, from 62 percent, since 2011. Throughout much of the 1980s and 90s, support for the death penalty often surpassed 70%. In 1996, 78 percent favored the death penalty, while just 18 percent were opposed.
Much of the decline in support over the past two decades has come among Democrats. Currently, just 40 percent of Democrats favor the death penalty, while 56 percent are opposed. In 1996, Democrats favored capital punishment by a wide margin (71 to 25 percent). Seventy-one percent of Americans say there is some risk that an innocent person will be put to death. Only about a quarter say there are adequate safeguards in place to make sure that does not happen. About six-in-ten say the death penalty does not deter people from committing serious crimes; 35 percent say it does deter serious crime.