Here are two must-read articles.
"U.S. Edges Closer to Europe in Attitude Toward Capital Punishment, Experts Say," is by Brian Knowlton in the New York Times International edition.
Ambivalence about legally administered death, sponsored by the state with bureaucratic detachment but not always precisely carried out, has long run much deeper among Europeans than among Americans, and has led to its abolition or suspension over the past century in nearly all democracies and every European or Central Asian country but Belarus.
Their divergent attitudes toward capital punishment are among the most striking differences between Europe and the United States, where nearly two-thirds of the states still allow the death penalty.
A series of developments have now created new pressure to scale back or eliminate the death penalty in the United States, including problems carrying out executions through lethal injection, convictions that have proved improper, and court fights over whether inmates with limited intellectual capacity should be subject to capital punishment. Last Thursday, a federal judge stayed an execution set for this week in Missouri. Three other executions are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday in different states.
The question now is whether the United States is at the beginning of a process that will lead it closer to Europe and most other democracies in ending the practice or is just sorting out how to deal with temporary impediments to execution.
At Slate, William Saletan writes, "Are Americans Turning Against the Death Penalty?" There are infographphics at the link.
For 40 years American politicians have assumed that favoring the death penalty is a winning political position. Is that era coming to an end? Is support for capital punishment, like opposition to gay marriage, evaporating?
We can’t be sure. But we’re seeing the first signs that it could happen.
We got used to high levels of public support for capital punishment in the 1980s and 1990s. But it wasn’t always so: The death penalty was far less favored in the 1950s and 1960s, sometimes lacking majority or even plurality support. The lows we’re seeing today don’t guarantee a further slide—this century’s numbers could bounce around as much as last century’s. But when you look at the array of surveys descending into unfamiliar territory, and when you study the factors behind this descent, it’s reasonable to think it could keep right on going.
You may want to look at recent polling in the public opinion polling category index.