Poll shows support for death penalty drops

The Associated Press
Friday November 03, 2000


LOS ANGELES — Support for the death penalty in California has dropped 20 percent in the last decade, according to a Los Angeles Time poll. 

The poll, published Thursday, found that 58 percent of those surveyed supported the death penalty, down from 78 percent in 1990. It also found that 44 percent of residents opposed a moratorium, while 42 percent supported one. 

The findings come at a time of intensifying national scrutiny of capital punishment and the decline is in line with similar trends in other polls. 

In March, a Gallup poll found that 66 percent of Americans back the death penalty, a 19-year low. 

The Times Poll found that opposition to the death penalty in California was strongest among blacks, with 49 percent disapproving and 42 percent approving. Support was strongest among whites, with 66 percent approving and only 30 percent disapproving. 

Gov. Gray Davis has voiced firm support for execution “as a matter of deep conviction.” He has rejected all three requests for clemency that have come before him since he took office in January 1999 and has repeatedly said he opposes a moratorium on executions. 

Lance Lindsey, director of Death Penalty Focus, a San Francisco-based group that opposes capital punishment, said he believes that “a large part of the reaction is a backlash to what is going on in Texas.” 

Texas has executed 232 people – more than any other state – since the Supreme Court permitted the reinstatement of capital punishment in 1976. 


California has the nation’s largest death row, with 577 inmates, but has had only eight executions since reinstating capital punishment. 

Experts also believe the findings reflect the growing concern over how the death penalty is administered and the widespread publicity about wrongful convictions around the country — including 13 in Illinois in recent years. 

The Times poll surveyed 1,837 California adults from Oct. 19 to 23 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.