With the Boston bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev being sentenced to death, and a number of botched executions attracting the attention of the U.S. Supreme Court, the death penalty has been in the headlines recently. The most recent survey from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind finds support for the death penalty virtually unchanged from when the same question was asked in 2006. Fifty-seven percent of respondents say they favor the death penalty for certain crimes with 36 percent opposed. In 2006, support measured 54 percent with 31 percent opposed.
“With the Supreme Court decision on lethal injections looming, and another federal defendant sentenced to death, sentiment in New Jersey is squarely on the side of allowing the practice to continue. A majority would undoubtedly agree with the decision to sentence the Boston bomber to the ultimate penalty,” said Krista Jenkins, director of PublicMind and professor of political science. She went on tos say “It’s not really a state issue, as New Jersey is among those states who abolished the death penalty in 2007. It’s more of a federal issue, given the difficulty that many states are having in getting the drugs needed for the legal injection cocktail. Right now Garden Staters are about where the nation is in regard to the question. Other polls have national support at 56 percent, another sign that New Jersey is really a microcosm of the rest of the nation.”
Not everyone embraces this form of punishment: Support is the strongest among Republicans, whites, men, and Gen Xers — with clear majorities of all of these groups saying yes to the ultimate penalty. There is considerably less support among Democrats, people of color, women, and Millennials — all of whom oppose the death penalty in numbers almost reaching or exceeding a majority.
Partisanship and race are the two biggest dividers in attitudes toward the death penalty. Among whites, approval approaches two-thirds, but among blacks support plummets thirty points to 35 percent. Three-fourths of Republicans favor this form of punishment with fewer than half of all Democrats.
The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 1314 adults, including an oversample of 403African-Americans, in New Jersey was conducted by telephone with both landline and cell phones from April 13 through April 19. The margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points.