Support for the death penalty in the U.S. is lower than at any point in nearly five decades, reports Gallup. For a fourth consecutive year, fewer than six in 10 Americans (55 percent) are in favor of the death penalty for convicted murderers. Death penalty support has not been lower since 1972, when 50 percent were in favor. Gallup has asked Americans whether they are “in favor of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder” since 1936, when 58 percent said they were. In all but one survey — 1966 — more Americans have been in favor than opposed. The 1960s and early 1970s brought many legal challenges to the death penalty, with a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court ruling invalidating state death penalty statutes. After the high court upheld revised state death penalty laws in 1976, support for capital punishment grew, peaking at 80 percent in 1994,.
In a survey last year, Americans favored life imprisonment over the death penalty by 60 percent to 36 percent, a dramatic shift from earlier years. Between 2011 and 2016, the percentage expressing support for the death penalty dropped to 61 from 66 in the preceding decade. In the past four years, support has fallen further to an average 56 percent. Now, 39 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of independents are in favor of the death penalty. Meanwhile, Republicans’ support has held steady, with 79 percent supporting it, unchanged since 2016. Over the past four years, an average of 45 percent of those in Generation Z (born after 1996) have favored the death penalty, as have 51 percent of millennials (those born between 1980 and 1996). As public opinion has trended away from favoring the death penalty, state laws have also changed. Twenty-two states do not allow the death penalty, with nearly half of those having enacted their current laws in the past two decades.