The Aberdeen American News has reprinted a recent story about the Death Penalty’s national decline, but comes to the conclusion that while it’s support might be shifting, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon:
Battered with bad publicity in recent years, the death penalty’s public support has declined. But earlier this month when voters in Nebraska, Oklahoma and California had their say, they voted to retain and even expand it, making clear that the controversial punishment is far from finished.
But even while public support for the death penalty remains in place, the political ground underneath that support has shifted in important ways.
Public opinion polls seem to clearly follow crime over that time period, with support for the death penalty spiking just after crime rises, then falling gradually as crime falls.
If this link between violent crime and public opinion on the death penalty is accurate, then the 60 percent level of death penalty support today may not be the result of a downward slide that is destined to continue. The drop may be, rather, the ebbing of an unusual dual spike upward and back down to more normal levels. Confidence that this slide will continue may be misplaced.
Interestingly, an anti-Death Penalty group had a booth at the last State Republican convention for the first time. But I suspect it’s more of an aberration than a trend.
The Death Penalty in South Dakota has traditionally been one of those litmus test issues for those running for high office. Opposing it could come at a price, as it’s certainly an effective wedge issue. People vote for people who will keep them safe in their homes. Being viewed as weak on violent crime is not a positive thing.
But, there is opposition.
Much of the concern from the opposition seems to be coming from wrongful convictions in other states. However, one would be hard pressed to argue that anyone on death row in South Dakota is wrongfully convicted. In fact, South Dakota would be the opposite, as in this state, juries tend to dole out a Death Penalty very, very sparingly, and only for the worst crimes.
The thesis of the news article is, in part, that support fo rthe death penalty increases with the crime rate. If there is a corresponding increase in support based on a higher incidence of violent crimes, given that Sioux Falls is quickly becoming known as Crime City, USA, with car jackings and higher incidents of Meth crimes, then the Death penalty is in no danger of going anywhere in South Dakota anytime soon.
What do you think? Any chance of South Dakotans softening on the Death Penalty? Could they accept a candidate for Governor who is opposed?
Or will it remain a litmus issue for candidates who might be required to dole it out?