Death Penalty support in decline, but probably not going away anytime soon.

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.

Read it here.

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?

3 Replies to “Death Penalty support in decline, but probably not going away anytime soon.”

  1. Steve Hickey

    Come on Troy, that’s very true but way too timid. One of these years we need to you get vocal, risk being marginalised and maligned, and become a thought leader on this one.

    Here we have an issue that all true conservatives should be uniting on…. The death penalty is the opposite of limited government and fiscal conservatism. Conservatives generally hold powerful government as suspect and marvel at how government can’t do anything right the first time. I’m really sure we don’t want government deciding who lives and who dies.

    Here’s just a short list of conservatives who want a repeal of the death penalty. This is not a liberal position.

    Winston Churchill once said: “If you kill the murderer the quantity of murderers will not change.”

    For those who care about the religious argument: Every single early church father was opposed to it. No one interpreted Romans 13 as a mandate for those holding to the values of Jesus to kill or assume any of the other values of Nero if/when they were ever to find themselves in places of power.

    Sorry to report that after three years of trying we will not offer a death penalty repeal again this year. There will be some legislation proposed that is related to the mental health issues but no repeal legislation.

    What is coming is a kill bill, a death with dignity bill, or whatever they are calling it. FYI, those who support the death penalty have compromised the sanctity of human life ethic and undermine any sort of rationale to turn around and say killing living human beings can not be justified under any circumstances.