Support for Death Penalty Falls to a 39-Year-Low After Troy Davis

Support for the penalty is down, according to a Gallup Poll. Republicans, men, whites and those living in the South and Midwest more like to support it, while people under 30 are more likely to oppose.

By Jorge Rivas Oct 14, 2011

Sixty-one percent of Americans approve of using the death penalty for persons convicted of murder, down from 64 percent last year, a Gallup poll released Thursday found. This is the lowest level of support since 1972, the year the Supreme Court voided all existing state death penalty laws in Furman v. Georgia.

The Oct. 6-9 poll was conducted shortly after the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia, which generated widespread protests and extensive news coverage.

The poll found 40 percent of Americans still say the death penalty is not imposed often enough, but that’s the lowest such percentage since 2001, when Gallup first asked this question. Twenty-five percent say the death penalty is used too often–it’s the highest such percentage yet that Gallup has measured. The rest (27 percent) say the death penalty is imposed about the right amount.

There are also increased doubts about how fairly the death penalty is applied in the U.S. Fifty-two percent of Americans say the death penalty is applied fairly in this country, down from 58 percent last year, but similar to the share of people who felt this way in 2000.

The poll also found almost three-quarters of Republicans and independents who lean Republican approve of the death penalty, compared with 46 percent of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic. Additionally, men, whites, and those living in the South and Midwest are among those most likely to support the death penalty.

Americans younger than 30, meanwhile, are more likely to appose the death penalty.

For a closer look at who ends up on death row, read’s "How Race Colors Death Row ‘Justice’".