A month after New Jersey became the first state in decades to abolish the death penalty, a majority of Maryland voters do not support a similar repeal, says a survey commissioned by the Baltimore Sun. Fifty-seven percent said they want the death penalty to remain legal, while 33 percent said they would ban it. The statewide poll of 904 likely voters was conducted Jan. 6 to Jan. 9. It has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.
Capital punishment has been the subject of intense debate in Maryland. Opponents question whether there are racial or geographic disparities in how the death penalty is imposed here, an argument bolstered by a 2003 University of Maryland study. Last year, Gov. Martin O’Malley led a failed attempt to abolish capital punishment. The survey revealed weaker support for the death penalty in Maryland – one of 36 states with a capital sentencing option for convicted killers – than in a national Gallup poll conducted in October. In that survey, 69 percent of respondents said they were in favor of the death penalty for a convicted murderer, while 27 percent said they were not. Support for capital punishment drops precipitously when pollsters introduce the alternative sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.