The US Death Penalty Information Center has reported that the US public support for the death penalty fell by 7 percentage points in the last year, with fewer than half of Americans (49 percent) now saying they support the death penalty, according to a national Pew Research Center poll released on September 29.
As the US Supreme Court prepares to hear the first of two death penalty cases in this year’s term, the share of Americans who support the death penalty for people convicted of murder is now at its lowest point in more than four decades.
The poll marks the first time in 45 years that support for capital punishment polled below 50 percent, when a Gallup poll in released in November 1971 also reported that 49 percent of Americans supported the death penalty.
Opposition to capital punishment reached a record high since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1972 decision in Furman v. Georgia striking down existing death penalty statutes.
42 percent of respondents told Pew that they oppose capital punishment, the most since a May 1966 Gallup poll reported 47 percent of Americans against the death penalty.
The poll results reflect the continuation—and perhaps acceleration—of a 20-year trend of decreasing support for, and increasing opposition to, capital punishment.
Support for the death penalty declined across every demographic group in the past year, with the largest decline coming among Independents (13 percentage points).
Majorities of Blacks (63 percent), Hispanics (50 percent), 18-29 year-olds (51 percent), college graduates (51 percent), Democrats (58 percent), and people with no religious affiliation (50 percent) now oppose the death penalty and—while comprising less than a majority—more women, Independents, and Catholics say they oppose the death penalty than support it.
Since 2011, support for the death penalty has declined among every demographic group, with overall support falling by 13 points.
The polls appear to be reflecting generational changes as well. 59 percent of those aged 18-29 said they supported the death penalty in 2011.
In 2015, support among the young had fallen to 51 percent, and support plummeted another 9 percentage points to 42 percent this year.
US is one of the countries around the world to still carry out death penalties and among one of the highest capital punishments carried out by such countries. According to Amnesty International, US carried out 504 death penalties between 2007 and 2012.