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Half Of Americans Think Death Penalty Is Unfairly Applied

More Americans think the death penalty is applied unfairly as opposed to fairly, the first time that this Gallup polling result has happened since the question was first asked in 2000. It represents a five-point increase in the percentage who think it is applied unfairly since the prior measurement in 2018. Fifty percent of Americans think it is applied unfairly, while 47% think it is applied fairly. From 2000 through 2015, between 51% and 61% of Americans thought capital punishment was used fairly in the U.S., but since 2016, readings on the measure have averaged 49%. Solid majorities of Republicans since 2000 have consistently said the death penalty is fairly applied, including 68% currently. The current 28% reading among Democrats is the lowest for the group, while independents’ 46% reading ties their lowest, from 2000.

At least 60% of U.S. adults favored capital punishment until 2017, when support dipped below that level. The current 53% of Americans who favor the death penalty is the lowest since 1972. Support for the death penalty in 2023 among independents and Democrats falls well below these groups' recent averages of 60% and 48%, respectively, while Republican support is similar to the 79% average. A separate question gauging Americans’ opinions of how frequently the death penalty is imposed finds that 39% think it is not used often enough and equal 28% shares saying it is used too often and not enough. Capital punishment is legal in 27 U.S. states and in the U.S., but both death sentences and executions have declined in recent years. Support for the death penalty for convicted murderers persists among all Americans, albeit at lower levels than in the past, as Democrats’ support for it continues to fall.

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