More than one-third of Americans now oppose the death penalty, the highest level in nearly 40 years, according to a Gallup Poll reported by USA Today. Those who believe the death penalty is being applied fairly, and those who say it isn’t used often enough, are at the lowest levels in a decade, underscoring significant changes in attitudes.
Gallup found that 35% of those polled oppose the death penalty, the highest opposition since March 1972. That year, the Supreme Court effectively ruled that the death penalty was constitutional unless it was applied unfairly. By 1976, several states had reinstituted capital punishment. Just 40% of those polled last week believe the death penalty isn’t imposed often enough, the lowest level since May 2001. The poll was conducted shortly after two controversial death penalty cases drew attention, and advocates acknowledge that highly publicized cases are altering public opinion.