Most Americans support the death penalty in murder cases, but are divided on whether it acts as a deterrent for potential criminals, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found.

The online survey of a representative sample of 1,006 American adults also finds that a high proportion of respondents believe that innocent people have been executed in the United States.

Across the country, 83 per cent of respondents support punishing homicide with the death penalty, while 13 per cent are opposed. A majority of Americans would also rely on capital punishment to punish rape (62%) and kidnapping (51%), but not armed robbery (40%).

Respondents are evenly split on the overall effect of the death penalty. While 39 per cent of Americans think capital punishment acts as a deterrent, 35 per cent disagree. Republicans (52%) are more likely to believe that the death penalty deters potential criminals than Independents (40%) and Democrats (34%).

Four-in-five respondents (81%) believe innocent people have been executed in the United States, while only six per cent think that this has never happened.

Full Report, Detailed Tables and Methodology (PDF)


Mario Canseco, Vice President, Communications & Media Relations
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Methodology: From October 28 to October 29, 2010, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among 1,006 American adults who are Springboard America panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 3.1%. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of the United States.