Poll: Record share of Americans say death penalty 'unacceptable'

The survey found that approval of capital punishment is declining among both liberals and conservatives. File Photo by Paul Buck/EPA
The survey found that approval of capital punishment is declining among both liberals and conservatives. File Photo by Paul Buck/EPA

June 23 (UPI) -- Long a divisive issue in the United States, capital punishment is now considered morally unacceptable to a record share of Americans, a new survey showed Tuesday.

Gallup said its poll found just 54 percent of U.S. adults said the death penalty is morally acceptable, a decline of 6 percent from last year and 4 points lower than the previous all-time low.


The annual Values and Beliefs survey found that 40 percent of respondents said the death penalty is morally wrong, the highest rating since Gallup began asking the question in 2001. Last year's survey also showed a record-high number of those who favor life sentences over executions.

Politically, the death penalty was deemed acceptable by 37 percent of liberals, a drop from 50 percent in 2018 -- and 67 percent of conservatives, a decline of 4 points. Fifty-six percent of moderates find the punishment morally sound.

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"[U.S. adults'] opinions of the death penalty, which have shown many shifts over the past 80 years, continue to evolve," Gallup wrote in acknowledging the trend last fall. "When given an explicit alternative, for the first time in at least 30 years, more say life imprisonment with no possibility of parole is a better punishment for murder than the death penalty."


Gallup's research also found that 90 percent of Americans find birth control morally acceptable and 86 percent said the same about drinking alcohol. The least-acceptable issue in the poll was infidelity, as just 9 percent of respondents said it's acceptable for men or women to have an extramarital affair. The next least-accepted issues are cloning humans (12 percent) and suicide (18 percent).

Tuesday's survey also showed wide differences among a number of other issues.

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The greatest difference was seen on abortion, about which 70 percent of liberals said the practice is morally acceptable -- compared to just 18 percent of conservatives, a gap of 52 points.

On same-sex relations, 84 percent of liberals say it's acceptable compared to 43 percent of conservatives.

Pornography (a gap of 37 points), physician-assisted suicide (35 points), sex between unmarried couples (33 points), marijuana (33 points) and embryonic stem cell research (29 points) were some of the other issues that saw a wide political gap.

Gallup surveyed more than 1,000 adults in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., for the poll, which has a margin or error of 4 points.

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