California: Field Poll finds 70% support death penalty

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Wild West ‘ethics’ persist: Californians maintain their solid support for the death penalty as a punishment for serious crimes, but are divided on whether they would impose a death sentence or life without parole for first-degree murder, according to a Field Poll being released today.

The survey of registered voters found 70 percent backing for capital punishment, up from 67 percent in the last statewide poll in 2006. Substantial majorities supported it, regardless of age, gender, race, religion or party. Twenty-four percent opposed the death penalty and 6 percent had no opinion.

But when a smaller number of voters were asked which sentence they preferred for a first-degree murderer, 42 percent said life in prison without parole and 41 percent said death. Another 13 percent said it would depend on the circumstances, and 4 percent had no opinion.

The last time the Field Poll asked that question, in 2000, it found that 44 percent chose the death penalty and 37 percent favored life without parole.

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This post was last updated: Jul. 23, 2010