Support for the death penalty among California voters is at its lowest point in nearly fifty years, according to the findings of a recent Field Poll.
Just 56% of Californians favor keeping the death penalty, while 34% would like the punishment to be discontinued. The numbers represent the biggest drop-off of support for the death penalty since 1971, when 58% approved of the death penalty and 34% disapproved. In 2011, 68% of registered voters in California supported the death penalty, while just 27% said they would like to see the practice stopped.
The decline in support for the death penalty among California voters comes in the wake of a decision by federal judge Cormac J. Carney in July, in which Carney ruled California’s death penalty unconstitutional.
“The dysfunctional administration of California’s death penalty system has resulted, and will continue to result, in an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution,” Carney wrote in his decision.
Survey participants were also asked to endorse one of two positions in light of the federal ruling: either to speed up the execution process, or to abandon the death penalty altogether and replace it with life without the possibility of parole. 52% of California voters favor speeding up the execution process, while 40% would replace the death penalty with life in prison. Another 8% are undecided.
As is typical with the results of Field Polls, voter preferences are strongly correlated with political ideology: “strongly conservative” Californians favor the death penalty by a 78%-19% margin, while “strongly liberal” Californians would discontinue the death penalty by a 61%-29% margin. Curiously, both Democrats and Republicans favor keeping the death penalty, although the +5 margin among Democrats is substantially lower than the +50 margin among Republicans.
Support for the death penalty in California peaked in 1985-1986, when 83% of California voters supported the punishment and a minuscule 14% did not.
Read the full results of the Field Poll here.