Percentage of Americans who say death penalty is morally acceptable at record low: Gallup
© Getty Images

A slight majority of Americans say they think the death penalty is morally justifiable, the lowest percentage ever recorded, according to new polling from Gallup.

Of those surveyed, 54 percent said they believe capital punishment is morally acceptable, a 6-point decline from 2019, according to the survey.

The May 1-13 polling follows Gallup’s polling last fall, which found falling public support for the death penalty and preference for life imprisonment as a punishment for murder at a record high of 60 percent to 36 percent.

ADVERTISEMENT

The 2020 polling found 40 percent of American adults, the highest in the 20 years Gallup has measured opinion on the matter, think the death penalty is morally wrong. Despite the continued majority support, the latest numbers are part of a years-long downward trend in support. The high-water mark for support, 71 percent, was in 2006.

Two-thirds of respondents who identify as conservatives continue to support the death penalty, but self-identified moderates (56 percent) and liberals (37 percent) have fallen to their lowest numbers since 2001, according to Gallup.

The numbers come from a broader survey on the moral acceptability of 21 issues or practices.

In the 20 years that Gallup has conducted the survey, the biggest changes have occurred in Americans’ perceptions of gay and lesbian relationships, having children or sex outside of marriage, divorce and embryonic stem cell research. The percentage of Americans believing these practices are morally justifiable has increased by double digits over the course of this century, according to Gallup.

The survey found broad ideological gaps between liberals and conservatives on several of the issues, with the biggest gap on abortion, with 70 percent of liberals believing it is morally acceptable compared to 18 percent of conservatives.

The smallest gap was on medical testing of animals, with 55 percent of liberals and 59 percent of conservatives believing it is acceptable.