Americans’ support for the death penalty has waned to a 39-year low, according to results of a Gallup poll released Thursday.
The controversial topic of capital punishment has been in the news recently surrounding the execution of Georgia inmate Troy Davis. Davis was convicted of murdering off-duty Georgia police officer Mark MacPhail in 1989. During his two decades of imprisonment, the evidence in Davis’ case planted the seed of doubt about his guilt in the crime.
Davis was executed by lethal injection on Sept. 21, 2011, to widespread public outcry.
Despite the widespread rallying around Davis’ case, the results of the Gallup poll show that 61 percent of Americans support the death penalty in the case of a person who is convicted of murder, the lowest return since 1972. Last year, 64 percent of Americans said that they supported the death penalty.
Demographics for those in support of the death penalty skewed toward males, white people, Republicans and those living in the South and Midwest. While nearly three quarters of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents said they supported the death penalty, only 46 percent of Democrats and Democrat-leaning Independents agreed.
Forty percent of Americans also said that the death penalty is not used often enough, and 25 percent said it was imposed too often. The latter number is the highest result Gallup has ever recorded for that question.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., the death penalty is legal in 34 states. In 2011 so far, 37 people have been executed. In 2010, 46 people were killed for their crimes.