The Sacramento Bee reports, "Field Poll: Death penalty support slips in California," by Sam Stanton. Here's an extended excerpt:
Support for the death penalty in California is at its lowest point in nearly 50 years, although more than half of the state’s registered voters still favor it, a new Field Poll has found.
The poll found 56 percent still believe the death penalty should be kept as a punishment for serious crimes, with 34 percent opposed and 10 percent undecided.
The findings come as states nationwide are grappling with a shortage of drugs used for lethal injections and critics who say some recent executions have been botched and left inmates suffering as they died. They also come after a July ruling by a federal judge in Los Angeles that found lengthy delays in executing California inmates have made the death penalty unconstitutional in the state.
Support for the death penalty in California has been eroding steadily for years, falling from a high of 83 percent in 1985 and 1986 Field Polls to its current level, the lowest since a 1965 survey found only 51 percent approval. The last Field Poll done on the issue, in 2011, found 68 percent in favor of keeping the death penalty, compared to 27 percent opposed.
“To me, it’s interesting that a small plurality is continuing to support the death penalty,” said poll director Mark DiCamillo, who noted that the Field Poll has asked the same question of voters since 1956, when support for the death penalty was 49 percent, the only year it has fallen below 50 percent.
AP coverage is, "Support for California death penalty slipping," by Juliet Williams, via the San Luis Obispo Tribune.
Support for California's death penalty has fallen to its lowest level in more than 50 years after a judge ruled it unconstitutional, according to a Field Poll released Friday.
The poll found 56 percent of registered voters support keeping the death penalty, a decline of 12 percentage points in just the last three years, when Field found 68 percent support for the death penalty. The new survey found 34 percent of respondents support abolishing it and 10 percent have no opinion.
It is the lowest level of support since 1971, when 58 percent of Californians supported the death penalty and 34 percent opposed it.
U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney in Los Angeles ruled in July that California's death penalty is unconstitutional because it takes too long to carry out, and that unpredictable delays are arbitrary and unfair. The judge noted that since the current death penalty system was adopted more than 35 years ago, more than 900 people have been sentenced to death but only 13 have been executed.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports, "Support for death penalty falls to 50-year low, Field Poll shows," by Bob Egelko. There is an infographic at the link.
The poll numbers may actually understate public opposition, in view of the narrow defeat of a 2012 ballot measure that would have repealed California's death penalty and replaced it with life in prison without parole. More than 47 percent of those who went to the polls supported the proposal.
A spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, which backed the 2012 initiative, said the latest survey is a further indication that capital punishment is losing support.
"I think that the public is becoming very aware that the California death penalty is broken beyond repair ... that we're spending millions on a system that fails to deliver the promise of justice, is wildly unfair, doesn't deter crime, and it will always risk (taking) an innocent life," said the spokeswoman, Daisy Vieyra.
The Field Poll also asked voters about a federal judge's ruling in July that declared California's death penalty unconstitutional because of delays of 25 years or more in carrying out executions, which the judge said have led to an arbitrary and irrational system.
Asked how the state should respond, 52 percent said it should speed up the execution process, 40 percent said it should replace the death penalty with life without parole, and 8 percent voiced no opinion.
"Poll: Support of death penalty in California slipping," is by Howard Mintz for the San Jose Mercury News. There are infographics at the link.
The Field Poll found that Republicans, conservatives and Central Valley voters were more likely to back retaining the death penalty, while Democrats, Bay Area residents, younger voters and African-Americans favor its abolition.
Despite the declining death penalty support, groups that have organized to get rid of the law in California have not cemented plans to try another ballot measure. Only voters can scrap the death penalty because it is in the state constitution.
Earlier coverage from California begins at the link. You can also jump to news of the 2012 SAFE California ballot initiative, in which repeal of capital punishment narrowly failed.