(Gallup) View of Death Penalty as Morally OK Unchanged in U.S.

The recent news about the botched execution of an Oklahoma death row inmate has not affected the way Americans view the death penalty. Sixty-one percent say the death penalty is morally acceptable, similar to the 62% who said so in 2013, although both figures are down from a high of 71% in 2006.

The results are based on Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs poll, conducted May 8-11. On April 29, an Oklahoma death row inmate given a lethal injection appeared to suffer for an extended period of time until finally dying of a heart attack. That incident led to the postponement of a second execution scheduled in Oklahoma that day and raised questions about the methods used to execute prisoners.

The case did not fundamentally alter Americans’ perceptions of the death penalty, however, with a solid majority viewing it as morally acceptable. This percentage is similar to the 60% who say they favor the death penalty as punishment for murder in Gallup’s October update.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Capital Punishment, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sociology, Theology

9 comments on “(Gallup) View of Death Penalty as Morally OK Unchanged in U.S.

  1. Terry Tee says:

    This American thanatic fascination is one of the divisions between us on opposite sides of the Atlantic. We just don’t understand how you can think this way. Nor, I would respectfully submit, can you call yourself pro-life if you are pro death penalty. European nations now ban the export to the US of pharmaceuticals that were until recently used in executions.

  2. off2 says:

    1. Terry Tee, I count myself an American, many of my ancestors having arrived here, from your side of the pond, in the 1620s & 30s. I am opposed to the killing of innocent babies, whether before or after birth. Some adults, however, aspire to, and achieve, a degree of evil behavior which dis-entitles them to live in society. I find that sad, not fascinating. Yes, I am sinner, but my sins are not destruction of social order. I have not killed, raped nor maimed. Do you see a distinction?

  3. Katherine says:

    #1, historically, that’s an interesting point of view, since our Bill of Rights bans “cruel and unusual punishment,” i.e. the hanging, drawing and quartering traditional in the land of our English ancestors. And leaving that barbarity aside, as recently as the mid-twentieth century it was considered reasonable and right to hang the Nazi war criminals. What changed over there? It’s not an increase in Christian belief in the general society, unfortunately. Generally speaking the people who are condemned to death in the U.S. have been tried and convicted of heinous murders.

  4. Terry Tee says:

    The question is asked above, what changed in Europe regarding capital punishment? I find that question very hard to answer. Here in the UK the death penalty was abolished in 1965. I was not living here then, but I know that even 10 years later (when I was here) opinion polls showed a majority in favour of the death penalty rather like the one given here for the U.S.A. What changed in Britain, it was widely acknowledged, was the belief of the legislators, not of the voters. However, the question of public opinion has not been asked for at least 20 years, I should think, because the public mind has indeed shifted greatly. I cannot hazard a guess as to why but can only give my own thoughts.

    1. If you want the death penalty then you have to accept that from time to time you will be executing innocent people. I have lost count of the number of times I have read of people being set free from life sentence or death row because DNA or other evidence showed conclusively that they could not have committed the crime for which they were convicted. You would have to be naive to believe that there were never miscarriages of justice. If I remember correctly the governor of Illinois suspended executions there, concerned over the number of people it was clear had been wrongly convicted.

    2. Executions seem an act of violence and create an atmosphere of violence. I admit that it is difficult for me to be consistent here – I am not a pacifist and accept that the military protect me, sometimes by being prepared to kill others, sometimes by putting their own lives on the line (for which, respect). But in general I note that where there is the death penalty there seems to be a society where there is a great deal of violence. I know that there has been great concern in the U. S. about your incarceration rates, especially of ethnic minorities. I mention this simply to illustrate that as part of this struggle against violence, there is a greater chance of imprisonment.

    3. Finally I note the countries with the greatest number of judicial executions: China, Iran, the U.S. – surely not company the latter wants to be part of.

    But … each country is sovereign. There are different cultures, and different ways of doing things. I have spent at least 18 months in the U. S., and visited many times, and despite this critique, have great love and admiration for the country. I have a friend who is a passionate Russophil. In wicked mood I sometimes point out to him that few people are clamouring to emigrate to Russia for better opportunities. But they are greatly attracted to the U. S. – and to the U. K.

  5. Katherine says:

    Thank you, #4, for your reasoned response.

    1. Yes, presumably sometimes mistakes are made. I am very grateful for the advent of DNA and other improved evidence evaluation methods which make wrongful conviction less likely. Many of the cases where people have been released have been re-evaluated after DNA analysis indicates an error was made. I am grateful for and support the groups who have promoted these re-evaluations.

    2. I have seen analyses of U.S. serious crime rates which indicate that the rate of violent crime ROSE when the death penalty was on hiatus and has dropped since its reinstitution. The major sources of violent crime in this country are gangs and drugs, not the death penalty.

    We don’t do it often, despite what you hear, and there are layers of review and appeal.

  6. Br. Michael says:

    I would suggest that there is a difference between taking innocent life and guilty life.
    In the case of a murderer what is the proper penalty? How many years is a life to be valued? Is your life worth 5 years, 10 or what? What is justice for the victim? Just why does the Scripture require the life of a murderer? Or did God make a mistake which we enlightened people can correct?

  7. MichaelA says:

    If you want to have the death penalty for certain crimes, then have it. It’s a civil decision. Other countries can choose to follow suit, or not, as they deem fit.

    But don’t pretend its a choice sanctioned by God. Its simply an expedient choice. Where scripture is concerned, the Old Testament prescribed the death penalty in ancient Israel for many things, including:

    • blasphemy (Leviticus 24:13-15),
    • following other gods (children and babies were to be put to death for this) (Deuteronomy 13:12-16),
    • disputing or failing to follow the decision of a judge (Deuteronomy 17:10-12),
    • prophecy that fails to come true (Deuteronomy 18:20-22),
    • gathering wood on the sabbath (Numbers 15:32-36),
    • cursing one’s parents (Leviticus 20:9)
    • being a rebellious son (Deuteronomy 21: 18-21)
    • being a girl who has sex before marriage (Deuteronomy 22:20-21)

    If the USA was serious about this, I suspect its population would be reduced by a good one third within a few months. The whole country would reek like an abattoir.

    Now, if you would prefer to just deal with the New Testament, then fine – after all, Christ came to fulfil the Old Testament law so we should be taking our primary cue from the New Testament. However, we don’t find less death penalty in the New Testament, we find more: Death is the proper penalty for ALL sin (Hebrews 10:28-29). As we are repeatedly told, anyone who hates his brother is a murderer (Matthew 5:21, 1 John 3:15) with all that that entails.

    ” For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10). The proper penalty for lawbreaking is death by burning (Matthew 13:41-42).

    If this was put into practice, the USA would be entirely depopulated within a very short time.

    So by all means have the death penalty – it is a civil choice you are entitled to make. But its not any more or less a “Christian” choice than to not have the death penalty.

  8. MichaelA says:

    “I have seen analyses of U.S. serious crime rates which indicate that the rate of violent crime ROSE when the death penalty was on hiatus and has dropped since its reinstitution.”

    I have no idea about US stats. However, in Australia we had similar arguments from statistics made by proponents of the death penalty, both when capital punishment ceased being implemented in practice (the late 1960s) and when it was entirely abolished (1984). Looking back, its obvious that all of those arguments involved blatant twisting of the figures. Australia does not have the death penalty and it has not adversely affected us.

    Which doesn’t mean other countries can’t do it. I believe the top 5 countries for executions are China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the United States. If that produces a more just and stable society for them, then I suppose good luck to them.

  9. Katherine says:

    MichaelA, in the U.S. we have a sad gang subculture which means that in certain neighborhoods violent crime is a way of life while in other neighborhoods it scarcely happens. I doubt that the U.S. and Australia are comparable in this respect. I hope not. By far the largest number of victims of, and perpetrators of, murder are minorities. It’s a scandal, and what to do about it is something I don’t know. Many major U.S. news agencies and analysts simply avert their eyes from the facts.