Death penalty foes make gains, but still in the minority

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Support for the death penalty in California is at its lowest level in nearly 50 years. But a new Field Poll says that more than half of California voters – 56 percent – still want to keep it.

Approval levels for capital punishment in California topped 80 percent in the 1980’s and 90’s. And just three years ago, a Field Poll said 69 percent of state voters favored the death penalty.

The new poll says those most likely to support the death penalty are Republicans and voters living in the Central Valley. Democrats, African Americans and voters in the San Francisco Bay Area are most likely to oppose it.deathrow

Voters were also asked about a recent court ruling that found the state’s death penalty to be unconstitutional because it takes too long to carry out. Fifty-two percent said the state should speed up the process. About 40 percent say California should get rid of the death penalty altogether and replace it with a life sentence with the possibility of parole.

California, by the way, has 748 people on death row, more than any other state. The last execution here was carried out in 2006.

Check out arguments from the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union for and against capital punishment.