Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut state legislature are increasingly out of step with
the public on the issue of the death penalty. Governor Malloy has said that he would sign legislation
to repeal the death penalty and this week the legislature’s judiciary committee passed a repeal bill.
Whether or not it passes in the Senate is an open question but it is pretty clear based
on results from the Quinnipiac University Poll that support for the death penalty in Connecticut has risen
since the Cheshire home invasion murders.
Prior to the murders, a January 2005 Quinnipiac Poll found 59 percent supported the death penalty. In our
February 2011 poll that support had risen to 67 percent.
While it can be argued that support is actually lower with a different question wording, the case can also
be made that support is actually higher with another wording.
Quinnipiac has consistently asked it three different ways. Here are the results ranked
from lowest to highest for support of the death penalty in the February 2011 poll:
Which punishment do you prefer for people convicted of murder, the death penalty or life in prison with no chance of parole?
Death penalty 48 percent, Life in prison 43 percent
Do you favor or oppose the death penalty for persons convicted of murder?
Favor 67 percent, Oppose 28 percent
Which statement comes closest to your point of view? (A) All persons convicted of murder should get the death penalty.
B) No one convicted of murder should get the death penalty.
C) Whether or not someone convicted of murder gets the death penalty should depend on the circumstances of the case.
All 10 percent, Depends on circumstances 73 percent, No one 16 percent
We can see that even in the question that gets the lowest support for the death penalty, a plurality support it .
When people are given a choice between the death penalty and life in prison for those convicted of murder,
by a 48-43 percent margin voters preferred the death penalty.
Support for the death penalty goes up 19 points when we use the conventional favor/oppose the death penalty wording,
as voters support the death penalty by a 67-28 percent margin.
Support for the death penalty grows even higher when voters are given the option of “it depends on the circumstances”.
Combining those who think everyone convicted of murder should get the death penalty (10 percent) with those who
say it depends on the circumstances (73 percent), a total of 83 percent of Connecticut voters support the
death penalty under certain circumstances.
With only 16 percent saying they oppose the death penalty in every case, there is little moral opposition to using the death penalty in Connecticut.
Voters want to keep the death penalty on the books but want it applied in a case by case approach. In the Cheshire case, for example,
support for the death penalty is 74 percent.