Poll: Preference for death penalty in murder cases hits new low

Given a choice between the two options, 52 percent pick life in prison as the preferred punishment, while 42 percent favor the death penalty – the fewest in polls dating back 15 years. The result follows a botched execution by lethal injection in Oklahoma in late April.

Without an alternative offered, 61 percent continue to support the death penalty, matching 2007 as the fewest in polls back to the early 1980s. That’s down sharply from 80 percent in 1994.

Clearly there’s remaining ambivalence; when offered the option of life imprisonment with no chance of parole, 29 percent of death penalty supporters prefer the alternative.