A majority (60%) of U.S. adults support the death penalty for people convicted of murder, according to a Pew Research Center report published June 2.
This is down slightly from 2020 when 65% of all respondents favored the death penalty for murder convictions.
Opposition stands at 39% in 2021, up slightly from 34% who opposed this as punishment for murder last year.
Majority support continues despite significant misgivings among the general public regarding its fairness and deterrence.
Only 21% believe “there are adequate safeguards to ensure that no innocent person will be put to death,” while only 35% say “the death penalty deters people from committing serious crimes.”
Similarly, 56% feel “Black people are more likely than white people to be sentenced to the death penalty for committing similar crimes” and 78% affirm that “there is some risk that an innocent person will be put to death.”
These sentiments have remained relatively stable in recent years, yet majority support for the death penalty continues and a majority (64%) claim moral justification for such a punishment in 2021.
“Support for the death penalty is strongly associated with a belief that when someone commits murder, the death penalty is morally justified,” the report said. “An overwhelming share of death penalty supporters (90%) say it is morally justified under such circumstances, compared with 25% of death penalty opponents.”
The margin of error is plus-or-minus 2.1%.