Columnist - Bob Ellis

Columnist - Carrie K. Hutchens

Columnist - Gordon Garnos

Columnist - John W. Whitehead

Columnist - Ken Korkow

Columnist - Paul Scates

Columnist - Raymond J. Keating

Movie Reviews

Events Calendar

Submit an Event

Guest Submissions

Add to Google Reader or Homepage

Contact Us

RSS Feed

About Dakota Voice

EP (Authorized Users Only)


abortion (79)

abstinence (15)

anti-Americanism (22)

appeasement (6)

Articles (48)

Bible (21)

blogs (6)

Bob Ellis (4)

Bush (26)

Carrie K. Hutchens (9)

Christian Heritage (18)

Christianity (61)

church and state (46)

Clinton (19)

Constitution (7)

corruption (1)

courts (18)

creation science (22)

crime (36)

culture (9)

death penalty (13)

defense (46)

drugs (6)

economy (8)

education (57)

election (43)

energy (8)

ethics (11)

ethnic issues (7)

euthanasia (40)

evolution (28)

family (52)

feminism (5)

Founders (3)

global warming (91)

Gordon Garnos (9)

government (18)

guns (2)

hate crimes (7)

health care (53)

history (3)

homosexuality (66)

immigration (21)

Iraq (42)

Islam (10)

Jesus Coffin (6)

John W. Whitehead (3)

Ken Korkow (2)

legislature (18)

liberalism (49)

marriage (28)

media (24)

media bias (33)

Middle East (5)

Misc (16)

Op/Ed (42)

parenting (38)

Paul E. Scates (3)

politics (16)

polling (14)

Raymond J. Keating (4)

religion (29)

religious freedom (21)

Ronald Reagan (1)

Schiavo (14)

science (13)

sexuality (33)

smoking (5)

socialism (60)

stem cell research (10)

taxes (19)

terrorism (28)

trade (4)

worldview (1)



Declaration of Independence

United States Constitution

Federalist Papers

Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin

     - Voting Record

Senator John Thune

     - Voting Record

Senator Tim Johnson

     - Voting Record

South Dakota Constitution

South Dakota Statutes

South Dakota Legislature

Email Your Legislators

South Dakota Budget

South Dakota Minimum Wage Study

South Dakota Secretary of State

South Dakota State Website

FEC Campaign Contrib. Map

Open Secrets - South Dakota

South Dakota Hospital Pricing




Tuesday, July 10, 2007



Death Penalty Polls: Support Remains Very High


By Dudley Sharp

Justice Matters

76% of Americans find that we should impose the death penalty more or that we impose it about right - only 21% that it is imposed too often. (Gallup, May 2006 - 51% that we should impose it more, 25% that we impose it about right)

71% find capital punishment morally acceptable - that was the highest percentage answer for all questions (Gallup, April 2006, moral values poll). In May, 2007, the percentage dropped to 66%, still the highest percentage answer, with 27% opposed. (Gallup, 5/29/07)

When asked the general question "do you support capital punishment for murderers?" , 67% of Americans said yes, with 28% opposed (Gallup, 10/06).

Support is actually higher.

Specific Case Support

81% of the American people supported the execution of Timothy McVeigh, with only 16% opposed. "(T)his view appears to be the consensus of all major groups in society, including men, women, whites, nonwhites, "liberals" and "conservatives." (Gallup 5/2/01).

85% of Connecticut respondents voiced support for serial/rapist murderer Michael Ross' "voluntary" execution. (Quinnipiac University Poll, January 12, 2005).

NOTE: I suspect that South Dakota is more conservative than Connecticut and that South Dakotan's might support Page's execution, for the torture/murder of Chester Allan Poage, at an even higher percentage, with the inclusion of the crimes details.

While 81% gave specific case support for Timothy McVeigh's execution, Gallup also showed a 65% support AT THE SAME TIME when asked a general "do you support capital punishment for murderers?" question. (Gallup, 6/10/01).

That very wide "error rates", between general support and specific case support, is likely due to the differences in (1) the widespread media coverage of anti death penalty claims, without the balance of contradicting those false claims, producing lower general support, (2) the absence of that influence when looking at individual cases when the public knows the crimes, the guilt of the murderer, and absent the anti death penalty bias factor, thus producing much higher specific case support and/or (3) reluctance of some respondents to voice support for the death penalty, unless specific examples of murderers and their crimes are provided, which may also include (1) and (2) as factors.

Death Penalty Opposition? Look Again.

40-90% of those who say the oppose the death penalty do, in fact, support that sanction under specific circumstances. That is not opposition to the death penalty, but support for it. This provides firm evidence that death penalty support is much wider and deeper than expressed with the answer to the general death penalty polling questions.

57% of those who say they oppose the death penalty, generally, actually do support it for McVeigh's execution (81% supported the execution of McVeigh, 16% opposed (Gallup 5/02/01), while 65% offer general support for executions, with 28% opposed (Gallup, 6/10/01).

41% who say they oppose the death penalty, generally, actually do support it for terrorists. (79% support and 18% oppose the death penalty for terrorists. 67% support and 29% oppose the death penalty for murder.) (SAME POLL - Survey USA News Poll #12074, Sponsor: WABC-TV New York, 4/26/2007 New York State poll)

90% of those who, generally, say they oppose the death penalty, actual did support it for Michael Ross. (SAME POLL - 85% say Connecticut serial rapist/murderer Michael Ross should be allowed to waive appeals and be executed. When asked whether they favor or oppose the death penalty, 59% favor - 31% oppose (Quinnipiac University Poll, January 12, 2005).

Further supporting the higher rates for specific cases, is this, from the French daily Le Monde December 2006 (1):

Percentage of respondents in favor of executing Saddam Hussein: USA: 82%

from the same poll, we have this, even though we are led to believe there isn't death penalty support in England or Europe.

In favor of executing Saddam Great Britain: 69% France: 58% Germany: 53% Spain: 51% Italy: 46% (my note: This falls within the margin of error for 50% support)

Death Penalty vs Life Without Parole

When responding to this question: “If you could choose between the following two approaches, which do you think is the better penalty for murder: the death penalty (or) life imprisonment, with absolutely no possibility of parole”, Gallup found

47% for the death penalty, 48% for life without parole, (Gallup, May 2006).

Some, including Gallup and Quinnipiac, speculate that this represents lower support for the death penalty. Such improper speculation cannot be justified and is an unethical use of pollsters opinion.

Neither respondent group is saying do away with the other sanction or that they oppose the other sanction. What is does mean is that 95% of US citizens support the death penalty and/or life without parole for murderers. It could also mean that 85% of all respondents support both sanctions. For example, "Which do you think is better - vanilla ice cream or chocolate ice cream?" 50% prefer chocolate, 45% vanilla. However, 85% actually love both vanilla and chocolate ice cream - with a slightly lower percentage loving vanilla, less.

Also, this Gallup question is highly prejudicial, which wrongly influence the answers. This has become commonplace.

First, "absolutely" no possibility of parole doesn't exist.

What is absolute is that the executive branch can reduce sentences and the legislature can change the laws and make them retroactive, if it benefits the criminal, thereby offering two avenues for parole in "absolute" no-parole cases.

Therefore, the polling question offers a false premise which, obviously, distorts the answers.

Secondly, by law it cannot be a choice of either only a death sentence or only a life sentence, as Gallup wrongly poses. Constitutionally, the death penalty cannot be mandatory. Therefore, at least two sentencing options must always be provided to jurors in a death penalty eligible case.

The proper questions might be, IF you are searching for a true life vs execution choice,:

For murderers, do you prefer the punishment options of 1) The death penalty or life without parole? or 2) Life without parole, only, or lesser sentences, excluding a death sentence in all cases?

Furthermore, this has the benefit of reflecting reality, as opposed to the distorted fiction of Gallup's (and others') current life vs death questions. The death penalty cannot be a punishment option, without also having life or other options.


Death penalty support is much deeper and much wider than we are often led to believe, with 40-90% of those who say they, generally, oppose the death penalty, actually supporting it under specific circumstances.

There is 82% death penalty support in the US, as recently as December 2006.

95% of US citizens support the death penalty and/or life without parole for murderers. Therefore, we already have the most democratic approach - we give jurors the choice between those two sentences.

Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters e-mail sharpjfa(at), 713-622-5491 Houston, Texas

Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.

A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.

Pro death penalty sites: (Sweden)

Permission for distribution of this document is approved as long as it is distributed in its entirety, without changes, inclusive of this statement.

(1) The recent results of a poll conducted by Novatris/Harris for the French daily Le Monde on the death penalty shocked the editors and writers at Germany's left-leaning SPIEGEL ONLINE (Dec. 22, 2006). When asked whether they favored the death penalty for Saddam Hussein, a majority of respondents in Germany, France and Spain responded in the affirmative.

Leave a comment about this article


Recommended Articles


Recommended Op/Eds

Recommended Blog Posts