After declining considerably in recent years, support for the death penalty in the US increased this year, fueled by an uptick in political independents backing the practice, according to a Pew Research Center survey.
A poll released Monday found that 54 percent of Americans favor capital punishment for people convicted of murder, up from the 49 percent the same survey found two years ago. Support is far below modern highs registered in the mid-1990s, when four out of five Americans backed the death penalty amid surging violent crime rates nationwide. Since then, capital punishment has grown far less popular and has been used much less frequently, with states imposing and carrying out fewer death sentences.
Full methodology for the study is available here.
The increase in support for the death penalty that Pew is reporting comes as other polls have shown public backing for capital punishment dropping to modern lows, reports the Washington Post.A Pew survey in 2016 found that support for the death penalty had fallen below 50 percent for the first time since 1971.
Gallup reported last fall that its own poll registered 55 percent support, the lowest it had seen since 1972. A Gallup poll conducted last month found that 62 percent of Americans said the death penalty is morally acceptable, which is up from the 58 percent who felt that way last year.
Pew’s polls have found less support overall for the death penalty than some other public surveys, so the shift this year brings Pew’s findings more in line with Gallup’s. Nineteen states have abandoned capital punishment, and seven of them have done so since 2007, says the Death Penalty Information Center.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced a moratorium in 2015, citing the number of people sentenced to death who were later exonerated.