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Field Poll: Death penalty proposition support closely divided

September 25, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
The results of a statewide survey conducted by the Institute of Governmental Studies at University of California-Berkeley and The Field Poll were released Tuesday. The survey sought to determine prospective voting support and opposition to Proposition 34.

California's Proposition 34 initiative would repeal California's death penalty and make life in prison the ultimate penalty for a capital crime. It would go into effect the day after election and apply to all on death row.

More Democrats and independents support Prop. 34, while Republicans tend to oppose the proposition.

Of total likely voters, 42 percent of respondents said they would vote for Prop. 34. Forty-five percent of respondents said they would vote "no" on Prop. 34. Undecided voters made up 13 percent of likely-voter respondents.

Of likely Democratic voters responding, 50 percent said they would vote "yes" for Prop. 34, while 37 percent said they would vote "no"; 13 percent of Democrats were undecided.

Of likely Republican voters responding, 23 percent said they would vote "yes" on Prop. 34, while 65 percent would vote "no"; 12 percent were undecided.

Survey results revealed strongest support for Prop. 34 among political liberals, African-Americans, voters in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area, and those who have completed post-graduate collegiate work.

The results revealed opposition is greatest among political conservatives and inland residents, particularly those in Northern California outside the Bay Area.

Currently there are more than 700 inmates on death row, the highest in the U.S. No inmate has been executed in California in five years due to a legal battle over execution procedures.

The average delay between sentencing and execution is more than 25 years.

Seventeen U.S. states have abolished the death penalty.

Data reveal public opinion moving away from the death penalty in the past 20 years nationwide and in the state. Earlier respondents believed the death penalty was less expensive than life in jail without parole.

Former supporters working to overturn the death penalty contend the penalty is a waste of money.

The official analysis by the California Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance says Prop. 34 "could" provide savings in the high tens of millions of dollars a year.

Supporters of the death penalty say that changes could be made to speed the process and reduce costs.

The death penalty has been in contention in California since the 1970s, beginning in 1972 when the death penalty was ruled unconstitutional. The penalty has been halted and reinstated several times.

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