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Support For Death Penalty Shrinking

Sacramento, CA — Most of Californians support the death penalty, according to a recent Field poll, but support is shrinking. Just over half, 56 percent, of registered voters support keeping the death penalty a decline of 12 percentage points in the last three years.

U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney in Los Angeles ruled in July that California’s death penalty is unconstitutional. The reasons he gave were; it takes too long to carry out, and unpredictable delays are arbitrary and unfair. Carney noted in the last 35 years more than 900 people have been sentenced to death but only 13 have been executed.

State Attorney General, Kamala Harris, is appealing the ruling, arguing: lengthy waits ensure those who are condemned receive due process.

According to previous Field polls, support for the death penalty is at its lowest level since 1971. Throughout the 1980’s and early 1990’s, around 80 percent of California voters favored keeping the death penalty. The Field Poll also asked registered voters what the state should do, 52 percent support speeding up the execution process, while 40 percent favor replacing the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Republicans, conservatives, Protestants, and Central Valley groups were reported as the strongest supporters of the death penalty and speeding up the execution process. Democrats, liberals, voters under age 30, African Americans, residents of the San Francisco Bay Area, those with a post graduate education, and voters either affiliated with a non-Christian religion or having no religious preference are the most likely subgroups to favor a sentence of life in prison.

Proposition 34, which could have repealed the death penalty in 2012, did not pass. In Tuolumne County it was 33.1 percent in favor and 66.8 percent opposed. Statewide it was 48 percent in favor and 52 percent opposed.

The state has not executed any inmates since 2006. According to the Associated Press, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is drafting new lethal injection regulations to switch from a mixture of three drugs to a single-drug lethal injection. No executions can occur until the new rules are adopted.

The Field Poll surveyed 1,280 registered voters from Aug. 14-28. The poll has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.