The poll, conducted by the University of Southern California/Los Angeles Times, found 66 percent of California voters support Proposition 36, which aims to soften the three-strikes law, while 20 percent oppose changing the law and 14 percent were undecided or declined to answer, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The "Three Strikes and You're Out" law passed in 1994 targets offenders who have previous convictions for at least two serious or violent crimes, such as rape or robbery. Any new felony conviction can trigger a prison sentence of at least 25 years to life.
"We've built this society on the idea that the penalty depends on the crime," said poll respondent Hamilton Cerna, 31, a registered Republican from Downey who works as an employee relations consultant. "If you're going to take away somebody's freedom, then I feel like it should be for a damn good reason."
Meanwhile, only 38 percent of respondents said they were in favor of replacing capital punishment with life in prison without parole, while 51 percent of respondents said they would like to keep the death penalty the same.
Kevin Calandri, 69, a retired college professor from Sacramento, said he intended to vote to abolish the death penalty because "the people who are more likely to be sentenced to death are poor minorities."
The poll questioned 1,504 registered voters from Sept. 17 to 23 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.