A majority of Utahns still favor the state having the death penalty, a new UtahPolicy poll shows.
But while 67 percent prefer the ultimate sanction for being convicted of aggravated murder, finds Dan Jones & Associates, that majority appears to be shrinking over time.
Way back in the 1980s – I recall – a Dan Jones poll for the Deseret News found that 90 percent of Utahns favored the death penalty.
Of course, some states, like Nebraska, have done away with the death penalty, opting instead for life without the possibility of parole.
Jones finds in his newest Utah survey that 26 percent of Utahns favor life without parole instead of the death penalty.
Two percent mentioned some other kind of ultimate penalty while 5 percent didn’t know.
Utah was one of the last states to do away with hanging and firing squad as a means of execution while going with lethal injection instead.
But just last year the Utah Legislature approved of the firing squad in case proper lethal injection drugs couldn’t be obtained.
There are religious overtones in Utah in favor of the death penalty.
While not formal LDS doctrine, the Mormon society has traditionally upheld the belief of blood atonement – giving one’s blood in repentance if you spilled wrongly the blood of another.
Jones finds in the religion breakout:
-- 77 percent of those who said they are “very active” in the LDS Church favor the death penalty, 17 percent want life without parole, 1 percent mentioned something else, and 5 percent of faithful Mormons didn’t know.
-- 53 percent of Catholics favor the death penalty, 35 percent said life, 6 percent mentioned something else, and 6 percent didn’t know.
-- 50 percent of Protestants favor death, 45 percent said life without parole, 0 percent mentioned something else, and 5 percent didn’t know.
-- Of those belonging to some other religion, 54 percent favor the death penalty, 35 percent said life, 4 percent mentioned something else, and 6 percent didn’t know.
Those who said they have no religion disagree with those carrying a faith: 59 percent favor life without parole, only 37 percent favor the death penalty, 2 percent mentioned something else, and 2 percent didn’t know.
So not accepting the Old Testament’s eye for an eye clearly plays out here.
Women are a bit more compassionate than men, Jones finds:
-- 71 percent of men want the death penalty, 26 percent said life.
-- 64 percent of women favor death, 27 percent said life without parole, and the rest were uncertain what they wanted.
Republicans are gun ho – 84 percent favor the death penalty, only 11 percent want life without parole.
Political independents: 59 percent favor death, 36 percent say life without parole.
Democrats are the exception: 61 percent favor life without parole, 30 percent say keep the death penalty.
Historically, racial minorities are against the death penalty, with black people convicted of murder much more likely to get capital punishment than white people across the nation.
Jones finds that racial minorities in this new poll are less likely to support the death penalty – but a majority of them still favor execution.
Utah is so overwhelmingly white that in every poll Jones only samples a small number of racial minorities to get an accurate overall sampling of the citizenry – so the margins of error in the minority samples are huge, and not very statistically accurate.
In his latest poll, Jones questioned 624 adults from Nov. 5-14 with a margin of error 3.92 percent.