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THE INDEPENDENT AND NON-PARTISAN SURVEY

OF PUBLIC OPINION ESTABLISHED IN 1947 AS


THE CALIFORNIA POLL BY MERVIN FIELD


Field Research Corporation
601 California Street, Suite 210
San Francisco, CA 94108-2814
(415) 392-5763 FAX: (415) 434-2541
EMAIL: fieldpoll@field.com
www.field.com/fieldpollonline
Field Research Corporation is an Equal Opportunity Employer
THE
FIELD
POLL
Release #2486 Release Date: Friday, September 12, 2014
VOTER SUPPORT FOR THE
DEATH PENALTY DECLINES IN
CALIFORNIA.
IMPORTANT: Contract for this service is
subject to revocation if publication or broadcast
takes place before release date or if contents are
divulged to persons outside of subscriber staff
prior to release time. (ISSN 0195-4520)
By Mark DiCamillo and Mervin Field
Support for the death penalty as a punishment for serious crimes in California is now at its lowest
point in nearly fifty years. The latest Field Poll finds 56% of voters in favor of keeping the death
penalty and 34% opposed. The 56% supporting continuation of the states capital punishment laws
is down from 69% in 2011. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s eight in ten California voters
favored keeping the death penalty.
The current survey also finds voters more divided when asked about a federal judges ruling that the
states implementation of the death penalty is unconstitutional due to the length of time it takes to
carry out an execution. In light of the ruling, voters were asked whether the state should work to
speed up the execution process or do away with the death penalty and replace it with the penalty of
life in prison without the possibility of parole. Statewide, 52% support speeding up the process,
while 40% favor replacing the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole.
These are the findings from the latest Field Poll, conducted by telephone among 1,280 registered
voters in California in six languages and dialects.
Voter support for the death penalty at fifty-year low
The Field Poll has been tracking California public opinion about the death penalty for over fifty
years.
The current survey finds 56% of registered voters in favor of keeping the death penalty as a
punishment for serious crimes. The last time The Field Poll found public support for the death
penalty in California dipping below 60% was 1971, when 58% favored it and 34% wanted to do
away with it. Support for the death penalty reached a high point in the mid-1980s and early 1990s
when 80% or more favored it. By contrast, the all-time low in California voter support for keeping
the death penalty was in 1956 when just 49% favored it.


The Field Poll #2486
Friday, September 12, 2014 Page 2
Table 1
Trend of voter opinion toward keeping
the death penalty in California
(among registered voters)
Favor
keeping it
Do away
with

No opinion
2014 56% 34 10
2011 68% 27 5
2010 70% 24 6
2006 67% 29 4
2004 68% 26 6
2002 72% 25 3
2000 63% 30 7
1997 74% 20 6
1992 80% 14 6
1989 82% 14 4
1986 83% 14 3
1985 83% 15 2
1981 78% 17 5
1979 75% 20 5
1977 71% 23 6
1971 58% 34 8
1965 51% 39 10
1960 55% 35 10
1956 49% 29 22
Note: Surveys conducted prior to 2002 asked of all California adults, not just registered voters.


Voters divided when asked what the state should do in light of a federal judges ruling that the
way the death penalty is administered is unconstitutional
Federal district judge Cormac J. Carney recently ruled that the states prolonged delays in
administering the death penalty render it unconstitutional because of the Eighth Amendments ban
on cruel and unusual punishment. In his ruling Carney said, For all practical purposes then a
sentence of death in California is a sentence of life imprisonment with the remote possibility of
death a sentence no rational legislature or jury could ever impose . . . (It) has resulted in a system
in which arbitrary factors, rather than legitimate ones, like the nature of the crime or the date of the
death sentence, determine whether an individual will actually be executed. And, it has resulted in a
system that services no penological purpose. Such a system is unconstitutional.
In light of this ruling, voters in this survey were asked whether the state should work to speed up the
execution process or do away with the death penalty entirely and replace it with the penalty of life
in prison without the possibility of parole.
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Friday, September 12, 2014 Page 3
The results show Californians are divided on the matter, with 52% favoring a speed up in the
execution process and 40% supporting replacing it with life in prison without the possibility of
parole. Another 8% had no opinion.

Table 2
What should California do in light of a federal judges ruling
the Californias death penalty is unconstitutional because
it takes so long for the state to carry out an execution
(among California registered voters)

Total
statewide
Speed up the execution process 52%
Do away with the death penalty and replace it with
life in prison without the possibility of parole
40
No opinion 8

The death penalty divides voters along socio-demographic lines
Republicans, conservatives, Protestants, and Central Valley voters are the strongest supporters of
the death penalty, and large majorities also favor speeding up the execution process rather than
doing away with the death penalty to comply with the judges ruling.
Democrats, liberals, voters under age 30, African Americans, residents of the San Francisco Bay
Area, those with a post graduate education, and voters either affiliated with a non-Christian religion
or having no religious preference are the most likely subgroups to favor replacing the death penalty
with life in prison without the possibility of parole to comply with the judges ruling.



The Field Poll #2486
Friday, September 12, 2014 Page 4
Table 3
Overall voter opinions toward the death penalty and what the state should do in light of
the federal judges recent ruling across subgroups of the registered voter population
Overall opinions In light of judges ruling
Keep the
death
penalty

Do away
with it

Speed up
executions
Replace it with
life in prison
without parole
Total statewide 56% 34 52% 40
Party registration
(.44) Democrats 48% 43 43% 48
(.29) Republicans 71% 21 69% 26
(.27) No party preference/other 53% 35 49% 40
Political ideology
(.15) Strongly conservative 78% 19 72% 25
(.15) Moderately conservative 72% 21 61% 31
(.45) Middle-of-the-road 57% 33 53% 39
(.10) Moderately liberal 44% 45 38% 47
(.15) Strongly liberal 29% 61 28% 62
Race/ethnicity
(.61) White non-Hispanic 57% 35 57% 37
(.23) Latino 58% 32 49% 41
(.06) African American* 46% 42 28% 62
(.10) Asian American 47% 30 44% 39
Region
(.28) Los Angeles County 54% 34 45% 45
(.31) Other Southern California 57% 33 59% 34
(.16) Central Valley 64% 26 60% 30
(.20) San Francisco Bay Area 51% 43 43% 50
(.05) Other Northern California* 59% 41 60% 34
Gender
(.48) Male 59% 35 53% 41
(.52) Female 53% 34 51% 38
Age
(.18) 18 29 51% 39 41% 48
(.17) 30 39 61% 33 59% 35
(.16) 40 49 57% 33 54% 38
(.27) 50 64 61% 32 54% 39
(.22) 65 or older 50% 36 51% 38
Education
(.20) High school graduate or less 62% 28 53% 41
(.32) Some college/trade school 61% 30 57% 35
(.26) College graduate 57% 35 52% 38
(.21) Post-graduate work 41% 47 43% 48
Religion
(.37) Protestant/Christian (non-Catholic) 67% 23 66% 28
(.24) Catholic 60% 30 48% 44
(.14) Other non-Christian religions 43% 49 38% 52
(.23) No preference/none 45% 48 46% 50
* Small sample base.

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The Field Poll #2486
Friday, September 12, 2014 Page 5
Information About The Survey
Methodological Details
The findings in this report are based on a Field Poll completed August 14-28, 2014 among 1,280 California
registered voters. Interviews were administered by telephone using live interviewers in six languages and dialects
English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, and Vietnamese.
The overall sample included supplemental interviews conducted among the states growing ethnic voter
population. Funding for the surveys supplemental interviews conducted with Asian American voters was
provided by Professor Karthick Ramakrishnan of the University of California, Riverside as part of the National
Asian American Survey project.
Individual voters were sampled at random from voters with telephones drawn from the statewide voter registration
rolls. The supplemental sample of Asian Americans was developed from voter roll listings targeting Chinese
American, Korean American and Vietnamese American voters based primarily on their ethnic surnames. Once a
voters name and telephone number had been selected, interviews are attempted only with the specified voter on
either their landline or cell phone, depending on the source of the listing from the voter file. After the completion
of interviewing, the overall sample was weighted to align it to the proper distribution of voters by race/ethnicity
and other political, demographic and geographic characteristics of the California voter population.
Sampling error estimates applicable to the results of any probability-based survey depend on sample size and the
percentage distributions being examined. The maximum sampling error for results from the overall sample in this
survey is +/- 3.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The maximum sampling error estimates are based
on survey findings in the middle of the sampling distribution (i.e., results at or near 50%). Percentages at either
tail of the distributions (i.e., results closer to 10% or 90%) have somewhat smaller margins of error. There are
other potential sources of error in surveys of public opinion besides sampling error. However, the overall design
and execution of this survey sought to minimize these other possible errors.
The Field Poll was established in 1947 as The California Poll by Mervin Field, who is still an active advisor. The
Poll has operated continuously since then as an independent, non-partisan survey of California public opinion. The
Field Poll receives financial support from leading California newspapers and television stations, who purchase the
rights of first release to Field Poll reports in their primary viewer or readership markets. The Poll also receives
funding from the University of California and California State University systems, who receive the data files from
each Field Poll survey shortly after its completion for teaching and secondary research purposes, as well as from
foundations, non-profit organizations, and others as part of the Polls policy research program.
Questions Asked
As you know, California has capital punishment that is, execution as a form of punishment for certain crimes.
How do you personally feel about capital punishment? Would you be in favor of doing away with the death
sentence, or do you feel that the death sentence should be kept as a punishment for serious crimes?
Last month a federal judge ruled that Californias death penalty law is unconstitutional because it takes so long for
the state to carry out an execution. What action do you favor California taking in light of this ruling: (1) Should it
take steps to speed up the execution process; or, (2) Should it do away with the death penalty and replace it with
the sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole? (ANSWER CATEGORIES READ IN RANDOM ORDER)