The Field Poll released Thursday found 70 percent of the registered voters surveyed in the state supported capital punishment, but the survey was split nearly evenly when asked if they would prefer a death sentence or life in prison without parole for a convicted killer.
The poll said 42 percent would prefer to see the murderer get life and 41 percent opted for death. Another 13 percent said their decision would hinge on the circumstance of the crime while 4 percent had no opinion.
The San Francisco Chronicle said the last time the Field Poll posed the question was in 2000 when 44 percent chose death row and 37 percent opted for a life sentence.
"I think they reflect a growing preference for life without parole as an alternative," said Stefanie Faucher, associate director of the San Francisco-based anti-death-penalty group Death Penalty Focus. "It is more cost-effective, is carried out more quickly and doesn't drag victims through years of appeals."
The Field Poll was conducted June 22-July 5. The telephone survey contacted 1,390 voters about their support for capital punishment. The question of giving a murderer the death penalty or a life sentence was posed to 498 of the respondents.
Field Corp. said the margin of error was 2.8 percentage points on the death-penalty question and 4.6 percentage points for the sentencing question.