Support for death penatly holds steady

Most Americans favor capital punishment for convicted murderers, a new poll finds, with 63 percent of adults approving of the death penalty in a Gallup survey.

The Obama administration is working to complete a review of federal and state capital punishment practices in the wake of a string of botched executions. 

The poll shows that support for the death penalty has generally held steady over the last several years after a gradual drop stretching back to the early 1990s, when 80 percent of the country approved of capital punishment.

“The broader trend over the last two decades has been diminished support for the death penalty, including a 60 percent reading last year, the lowest since 1972,” Gallup concluded.

{mosads}There remains a partisan divide in support for the death penalty, with 76 percent of Republicans in favor of the practice and just 49 percent of Democrats supportive of capital punishment for murderers, the survey finds.

But among those of all political stripes, including Republicans, support for the death penalty has waned over recent decades.

Death penalty opponents are seizing on the trend as evidence that the practice is on the way out in the United States.

“Today, the movement is on the side of repealing this outdated, broken practice,” said Diann Rust-Tierney, executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

In April, President Obama directed the Justice Department to launch a national review of the death penalty following the mishandled execution of convicted killer Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma. Lockett reportedly writhed in pain after he was given the first part of a three-drug lethal cocktail and ultimately died of a heart attack.

The case was one in a series of controversial executions that have rekindled the debate over the death penalty.

Obama called the Lockett mishap “deeply troubling” and ordered a federal review not just of the issues at play in the Oklahoma case but of the application of the death penalty generally.

Justice Department officials said the agency, at the president’s direction, had expanded the pre-existing review “to include a survey of state-level protocols and related policy issues.”

The scope of the review has raised concerns among some congressional Republicans, who warned Obama against treading too heavily on an issue traditional left to the states.

The Justice Department said little else about the review or its timetable until last month, when Attorney General Eric Holder announced plans to step down from the position. The agency issued a list of priorities for Holder’s remaining time on the job, including the death penalty review. 

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