A poll released today by the ACLU of PA and four other groups indicated what many of us already knew. Support for the death penalty is on the descent. In the annual Penn State poll, participants were asked what punishment they prefer for murder- the death penalty, life without parole, or life with parole. 45.1% of people chose either life without (35.5%) or life with (9.6%) while 42.9% chose the death penalty. Support for the death penalty is down from where it was in 2003 when Quinnipiac University asked a similar question.
Peter Loge, a consultant to the anti-death penalty movement, recognized this in an op-ed that was published in The Hill after the 2005 general election in which abolitionist candidates won the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia.
Since about 2000, the American people have gotten a much more nuanced understanding of the death penalty. They have learned about the costs. New York, for example, has spent about $200 million over the past 10 years on a capital-punishment system recently ruled invalid by a state court, and the state hasn’t executed anyone.
Americans have heard from murder-victim family members who oppose the death penalty. They have learned about the mistakes that are far too often made, mistakes that have sent at least 121 people to death row who did not belong there, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Many Americans have concluded that whatever their private moral positions on capital punishment, it is pretty clearly a deeply flawed system that may not be worth all the time, energy and money. And in the past several years, voters have not been supporting candidates who promise to be the executioner in chief, and they have not been punishing candidates who think the death penalty is a policy whose time has come and gone.
And now the news is hitting the hills and woods and cityscapes of Pennsylvania.
Andy in Harrisburg