The increase in support for the death penalty that Pew is reporting comes as other polls have shown public backing for capital punishment dropping to modern lows.
A Pew survey in 2016 found that support for the death penalty had fallen below 50 percent for the first time since 1971. Gallup reported last fall that its own poll registered 55 percent support, the lowest it had seen since 1972. (A Gallup poll conducted last month found that 62 percent of Americans said the death penalty is morally acceptable, which is up from the 58 percent who felt that way last year.) Pew's polls have found less support overall for the death penalty than some other public surveys, so the shift this year brings Pew's findings more in line with Gallup's.
As recently as 2007, the share of Americans who backed the death penalty -- 64 percent, according to Pew -- was more than double the 29 percent who did not. Since then, the country has undergone a considerable shift on capital punishment, both in terms of support and the way states do and do not carry out death sentences.
The overall drop in support for capital punishment has come amid a growing political divide about the issue. While the new Pew survey found that most Republicans back the death penalty (77 percent), that number is far lower among Democrats (35 percent). In 1996, while Republican support was somewhat higher (87 percent), twice as many Democrats agreed (71 percent), according to Pew.
The Pew survey found that while people backing the two major parties have largely not budged on capital punishment since 2016, political independents have shifted, with support rising to 52 percent from 44 percent during that span. Overall, while 54 percent of Americans support capital punishment, 39 percent oppose it, the Pew poll found.
Other breaks remain among American demographic groups, Pew's new survey found. More men support the death penalty (61 percent) than do women (46 percent). White people are much more likely to back it (59 percent) than black (36 percent) or Hispanic people (47 percent).
People who support and oppose capital punishment have found areas of agreement on the issue. Pew had found that in 2015, most Americans -- those in favor of the death penalty and those against it -- agreed that there was some risk that an innocent person could be executed. A Quinnipiac University National Poll this year found that 58 percent of Americans supported death sentences for a person convicted of murder, while 33 percent were opposed; the poll found that when given a choice between a death sentence or life in prison without parole, a slim majority of Americans -- 51 percent -- supported life sentences.
Scott Clement contributed to this report.