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Why Most Americans Say They Still Favor The Death Penalty

Most Americans favor the death penalty, citing as justification proper punishment and saved taxpayer dollars in a new Gallup poll.

A strong majority — 63 percent — of those Americans polled said they favor the death penalty in cases of murder. Asked to state why in their own words, 35 percent cited the biblical concept of an “eye for an eye,” 14 percent said the penalty “saves taxpayers money,” and 14 percent said “They deserve it.”

Others said they support it because it’s a deterrent for future crime or will prevent that person from committing the crime again, or that it helps the families of the victims. Three percent of those polled simply said they “believe in the death penalty.”

Gallup conducted this same poll in 1991, 2001, and 2003. In 1991, half of Americans who support the death penalty cited “eye for an eye” as justification, 13 percent cited taxpayer savings and no one said “they deserve it.”

That year the second most popular reason for support of the penalty was deterrence, with 19 percent saying “They will repeat the crime.” This year just 7 percent referred to the concept.

Of Americans who oppose the death penalty, 40 percent said it’s “wrong to take a life.” Other popular justifications involved religious beliefs and wrongful convictions.

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