Field Poll

Capitol Alert
By David Siders
dsiders@sacbee.com
January 14, 2016 4:01 PM

  • Even divide over whether to speed up executions or repeal capital punishment
  • Growing proportion of voters favor replacing death penalty with life in prison
  • Issue divides along sharply partisan lines

In an ongoing shift in public opinion about the death penalty in California, the number of state voters who favor doing away with capital punishment has grown to virtually the same size as those seeking to speed up the execution process, according to a new poll.

The Field Poll, released Friday, comes as state officials continue to grapple with legal challenges that have long stalled executions in the state.

When asked what the state should do in response, 48 percent of registered voters said California should take steps to speed up the process, according to the poll.

Forty-seven percent of registered voters said the state should do away with the death penalty and replace it with life sentences without the possibility of parole.

The result reflects a shift since September 2014, when Californians favored speeding the execution process by a 52 percent-to-40 percent margin.

“It’s certainly closer than it was when we first polled on it,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the poll. “Voters seem to be moving toward the option of life in prison without the possibility of the parole, more than they have in the past.”

Voters seem to be moving toward the option of life in prison without the possibility of the parole more than they have in the past.

Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll

A Field Poll in 2014 found majority support for capital punishment, though at 56 percent it was the lowest level of support in nearly 50 years.

DiCamillo said California voters hold a more favorable opinion of the death penalty when asked about it in general terms, without considering “all the delays, all the caveats.”

“But that’s not what we’re asking here,” he said. “I think most voters would probably remain supportive of the death penalty, but in its implementation, it doesn’t seem to work.”

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