But support for capital punishment drops precipitously when pollsters introduce the alternative sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.
Asked in 2006 whether death or life without parole is the better penalty for murder, 47 percent chose the death penalty and 48 percent picked life without parole, according to the Gallup poll.
In Maryland, a poll of 625 registered voters conducted in February by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research revealed a similar drop. In that statewide survey, commissioned by the Maryland Catholic Conference, which opposes capital punishment, 56 percent expressed support for the death penalty while 34 percent opposed it. But asked a follow-up question, 61 percent said they thought life without parole is a suitable alternative to a death sentence.
It would be nice to see a poll commissioned by an independent observer that asks the same follow up, or at least forces poll respondents to choose between life in prison with no parole and a death sentence. That is the argument we are having, so that should be the question that is asked. It seems like no-brainer to me.