A majority of Americans support the death penalty, but their ranks have been shrinking for 17 years, according to a new Pew Research Center poll.
As of 2013, 55 percent of adults say they back the death penalty for convicted murderers, while 37 percent say they do not. That’s a sizable difference from two years earlier, when support won out with 62 percent with 31 percent opposed. A majority of whites, Republicans and independents support the death penalty, while majorities of Hispanics, blacks and Democrats do not. (An interactive version of the map above is available here.)
A total of 1,373 people have been executed since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Executions peaked in 1999, when 98 people were killed, and have fallen to an annual average of 43 over the past decade, according to Death Penalty Information Center data cited by Pew. Meanwhile, 106 people sentenced to death have been exonerated since 1989, according to data maintained by the University of Michigan and Northwestern University law schools. (See charts below.) Last month, Washington’s governor suspended the death penalty over concerns that it was unfairly applied. New Mexico’s former Gov. Bill Richardson, who himself repealed the death penalty, this week urged Delaware to do the same.
Texas was home to 512 executions — more than one in three — with Virginia and Oklahoma executing 110 people each. Those states, along with Florida, Missouri and Alabama, were home to two out of every three executions in the years since the death penalty was reinstated.