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    “Support for Governor Newsom’s Death Penalty Moratorium has plummeted as voters perceive a less safe California – new statewide poll

    California registered voters continue to support state death penalty law, strongly in specific circumstances.

    By James Lacy,  U.S. Justice Foundation, 7/27/23

    Voters in California have demonstrated a remarkable change in attitude on Governor Newsom’s Death Penalty Moratorium, with 40% now disagreeing with Newsom’s executive order and just 34% supporting it, according to a new poll released today.  The poll was conducted using a similar methodology as the UC Berkeley/LA Times poll, of 1,000 registered voters by Cygnal, a national polling firm, for the U.S. Justice Foundation.  The full poll results may be accessed here for download:

    And further, a strong majority of registered voters support the California death penalty law at 53.2% and rises to 56.3% among likely voters, with 21.4% and 21.1% respectively opposing the law, and 19.3%/18.5% neither supporting nor opposing it.

    Perceptions of rising crime may be a reason for the opposition to Newsom’s moratorium and the strong majority in favor of the death penalty law.  Other findings of the poll include that 61.4% of registered voters feel “less safe” than they did just two years ago.

    While voters are near split on how they would vote on an amendment to repeal the death penalty, with about 40% opposing and 38% supporting, when voters are subsequently asked about specific crimes that would justify a death penalty law, support for the law skyrockets.  73.4% of California registered voters state the death penalty is justified in circumstances similar to the allegations against Bryan Kohberger, who is accused of stabbing to death four people in their sleep in Idaho;  76.6% support the death penalty for a man in Davis, California, who killed two college-aged women, where the Yolo County District Attorney is considering the death penalty in the case regardless of Newsom’s moratorium; 75.1% support the law in cases of domestic terrorism resulting in murder; 75.8% support the death penalty in crimes against children including rape and murder; 76.7% support the law for mass murderers such as the Las Vegas shooter who killed 58 people; and 58.2% support the death penalty for acts of treason, among other examples.

    Results of the new poll contrasts sharply with a two-question poll released by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times, in May, 2021, which presented that “48% of California voters supported” Newsom’s moratorium “compared with 33% who opposed” it.  News reports of that poll included headlines such as “Support for the death penalty is declining in California, poll shows.”  Subsequent and more detailed polling however in this new Cygnal poll demonstrates that more Californians support the death penalty law than oppose it, and the margin of support for the law appears to be growing.  Prior polling by U.S. Justice Foundation showed Californian’s generally supportive of the existing death penalty law that Newsom is not enforcing.  In June 2021, the national polling firm of McLaughlin and Associates found 49% of likely voters in California would vote No if a constitutional amendment to abolish the death penalty was placed on the ballot by the Legislature, while 43.8% would vote Yes.  When voters were informed of issues that would be raised during a campaign to repeal the death penalty, opposition to repeal increased to a majority of 53.3% of voters saying No to abolishing California’s death penalty law, and support dropped to just 40.5%.  See poll results:

    James V. Lacy, President of the U.S. Justice Foundation, said, “it is clear that voters in California not only continue to strongly support the death penalty law, especially in specific circumstances, but also that in an environment where they perceive crime is on the rise and feel more unsafe, opposition to Governor Newsom’s moratorium appears to have markedly increased.”

    The poll was conducted July 24 – 25, 2023, with 1,000 likely registered voters in California. It has a margin of error of ±3.08%. Known registered voters were interviewed via online panel. This survey was weighted to a likely registered voter universe.



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