Californians’ support for the death penalty has dropped in the past 20 years, a public opinion poll released Tuesday found.
Of those polled in 2009, 66 percent support the death penalty, compared with 79 percent 20 years ago. Half of Californians polled in 1989 saw themselves as strong supporters of the death penalty, while 38 percent characterize themselves that way today. The poll was conducted by UC-Santa Cruz psychology professor Craig Haney.
The survey also found that factors that would sway a potential juror to vote for a life without parole sentence included whether the defendant had been seriously abused as a child, was intellectually or emotionally impaired at the time of the crime, or would benefit from prison.
Among misconceptions Haney found still prevalent among respondents was the notion that the death penalty is cheaper than life without parole — half of the 2009 respondents held this belief, compared with 54 percent in 1989.
Funded by the National Jury Project and conducted by the Survey Research Center at the University of Virginia, the survey polled 800 jury-eligible Californians in February and March.
— Kate Moser