POLITICS

Poll Shows Most Californians Agree With Gavin Newsom's Death Penalty Opposition

A survey found record-high support in California for life imprisonment rather than the death penalty for first-degree murder.

A new poll found a record high percentage of Californians are against the death penalty for murder ― showing that public opinion in the state aligns with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) recent decision to place a moratorium on the practice.

In a survey released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California, 62 percent of adults in the state who were asked to choose a penalty for first-degree murder chose life imprisonment without parole over the death penalty, which 31 percent of adults supported.

Support for the death penalty has dropped dramatically since 2000, when California adults were about evenly split on the issue (49 percent in favor of the death penalty, 47 percent in favor of life imprisonment), and even since 2012, when 55 percent of respondents supported life imprisonment versus 38 percent supporting the death penalty.

Earlier this month, Newsom signed an executive order suspending the death penalty in California, calling the practice “immoral” and saying it discriminates against people of color and poor people.

The governor halted executions for the 737 inmates on death row in the state, which houses 25 percent of the nation’s condemned inmates ― the largest death row population in the U.S. However, California hasn’t executed anyone since 2006 due to legal challenges.

Meanwhile, some conservatives criticized Newsom’s policy change, with Republican commentator Carl DeMaio, who has pushed for a recall of the governor, falsely tweeting that Newsom ”ignores [the] will of the voters” by halting the death penalty.

Survey results from the the Public Policy Institute of California, March 2019.
Survey results from the the Public Policy Institute of California, March 2019.

The poll also found a record-high proportion of Californians ― 68 percent of adults ― who said housing affordability was a “big problem” in their region. Those figures climbed to 80 percent of adults in the San Francisco Bay Area, where housing prices have notoriously increased in recent years.  

Almost half of Californians (47 percent of adults) said housing costs were making them seriously consider leaving the part of the state where they currently reside ― with most saying they’d leave the state altogether.

In terms of support for statewide politicians, 45 percent of adults and likely voters in California approved of how Newsom is handling the job since he started his term in January. That’s about the same amount who approve of their senators’ work, with 47 percent of adults approving of how Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) is handling her job, and 45 percent approving of Sen. Kamala Harris (D).

Meanwhile, only about one-third of Californians (29 percent of adults and 34 percent of likely voters) approve of President Donald Trump, similar to his rate of support in the state last year.

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