A new Gallup poll shows support for the death penalty on the rise. When asked, “Are you in favor of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder?” 74 percent of respondents said yes, which is the highest approval number Gallup has found since 1995. In several polls conducted in 2000 and 2001, Gallup found that support for the death penalty had fallen, reaching its lowest point, 65 percent, in a poll conducted in May 2001. Since then, Gallup has found a steady rise in support for capital punishment to 68 percent in October 2001, 72 percent in May 2002, and 74 percent today.
The polls taken in 2000 and 2001 reflected public opinion at the height of the death penalty moratorium movement, when capital punishment foes downplayed their objections to the death penalty on moral grounds and instead emphasized the notion that there is an unacceptably high error rate in death penalty convictions. Death penalty abolitionists suggested that some innocent prisoners might have been executed — an appealing argument, although one that the abolitionists were unable to support with actual evidence. During that time, while support for the death penalty fell, the number of people who said they were opposed to the death penalty rose to 28 percent. That number has since begun to fall, and stands at 24 percent in the new Gallup survey.