Chart of the Day: Support for Capital Punishment Sinks to a Nearly Four-Decade Low

A lethal injection room at the San Quentin State Prison.<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/37381942@N04/4905111750/in/set-72157624628981539/">CACorrections</a>/Flickr

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The number of Americans who approve of the death penalty is at its lowest level in nearly four decades, according to a Gallup poll published last week. The poll, which was conducted between October 6 and 9 (just two weeks after the controversial execution of Troy Davis), puts national support for capital punishment at 61 percent, a three-point drop from 2010. Gallup says the data reflect the lowest level of support for the death penalty “since 1972, the year the Supreme Court voided all existing state death penalty laws in Furman v. Georgia.” The numbers also show a significant drop in support since 1994, when 80 percent of Americans approved of the death penalty (an all-time high).

Although respondents were only asked about capital punishment in the abstract—not in specific cases of, for example, mass murder—the poll still offers up some telling finds. This year, 40 percent of respondents said the death penalty is “not imposed often enough,” which is the lowest percentage since Gallup began asking the related question in May 2001. Furthermore, a quarter responded that the death penalty is “used too often,” the highest such number yet. The remaining 27 percent made up the Goldilocks quotient, deeming the death penalty to be imposed “about the right amount.”

Gallup began polling the popularity of the death penalty in murder cases in 1936; that year, the poll found that 59 percent of Americans supported executions, while 38 percent opposed them. Here’s a summary of the good statistical news for 2011, in easy-to-read graph/chart format:

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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