Delaware voters support death penalty repeal

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(Hand in jail photo via ShutterStock)

Will a recent survey have any effect on a Delaware bill that replaces the death penalty with life sentences behind bars?

Senate Bill 40 which passed by the state Senate two weeks ago has been generating a lot of buzz lately. The bill is expected to soon be brought up in the House Judiciary Committee and the question is will a survey released this week help or hurt the bill.

According to a poll spearheaded by the Delaware Center for Justice, the majority of Delawareans support replacing the death penalty with life in prison. This information is based on results from 573 Delaware voters surveyed by automated telephone interviews from April 12th to 14th.

The findings show that 64% of Delawareans support life in prison, compared to just 30% who believe the death penalty is the most appropriate punishment. There’s about a +/-4.1% margin of error.

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Ashley Biden, the executive director of the Delaware Center for Justice shared her thoughts on the death penalty.

“It is racially biased and arbitrarily applied; it puts innocent lives at risk; it harms rather than supports family members of murdered victims; and it is extremely costly to taxpayers. Simply put, the death penalty is the wrong public policy choice for Delaware,” Biden said.

In 2013, a similar piece of legislation passed the Senate but sat in the House. The past stall is what prompted the Delaware Center for Justice to conduct a poll of Delaware residents and their views on the death penalty.

The results revealed a wide range of support to repeal the death penalty and push for life in prison. Majorities of women (69%), men (57%), Democrats (72%), Independents (58%), African Americans (70%), are all in favor of such an alternative to the death penalty. 52% of surveyed Republicans are also on board with another alternative.

However, Delawareans expressed mixed views on whether or not they’ll vote for legislators who support or reject Senate Bill 40. Majority of those surveyed will back legislators who push for Senate Bill 40 while 17% of Delawareans don’t believe a vote to repeal death penalty would sway their vote for their State Representative come election time.

This week a new Pew Research Center found support for the death penalty is at its lowest in 40 years. In October, a Gallup Poll also reported historic lows.

Biden attributes the decline in support for the death penalty to the recent exoneration from death row for some cases, and botched executions earlier this year.

“Delawareans are clearly dissatisfied with our capital punishment system, which is broken beyond repair,” said Biden.

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