More Californians prefer life term to death penalty
September 19, 2012
• Strong support for changing three strikes law
• Democrats prefer life terms for killers, Republicans would execute them
Half of Californians who say they are likely voters in next month’s elections (50 percent) say life imprisonment with absolutely no possibility of parole should be the penalty for first-degree murder, while 42 percent say it should be death.
The figures are from the newest statewide polling by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California, released Wednesday night.
Results were similar in September 2011 (50 percent life imprisonment, 45 percent death penalty).
Among likely voters, most Democrats (66 percent) prefer life imprisonment and most Republicans (58 percent) prefer the death penalty, while independents are split (42 percent life imprisonment, 43 percent death penalty).
The survey results may foreshadow the outcome of Proposition 34 on the ballot, which would eliminate the death penalty in the state.
Proposition 36, also on the ballot next month, would revise the three strikes law. Again, like the death penalty, the survey did not ask specifically about the propositions but did ask about some of the concepts behind them.
The current three strikes law requires, among other things, a minimum sentence of 25 years to life for three-time offenders with multiple prior felonies.
Survey respondents were asked if they favor or oppose changing the law to impose life sentences only if the third felony conviction is serious or violent. The results: 73 percent of likely voters are in favor, a view held across parties, demographic groups and regions.
The PPIC Statewide Survey was conducted with funding from The James Irvine Foundation. Findings are based on a telephone survey of 2,003 California adult residents interviewed on landlines and cell phones from Sept. 9-16.
Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish according to respondents' preferences.
The sampling error, taking design effects from weighting into consideration, is ±3.5 percent for all adults, ±3.9 percent for the 1,339 registered voters, and ±4.4 percent for the 995 likely voters.