NEW JERSEYANSí OPINIONS ON

THE DEATH PENALTY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conducted for:

New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

 

†††††††††

 

Conducted by:

Bloustein Center for Survey Research

Patrick Murray, Director

 

 

Data Collection:

April 2005

 

 

 



NEW JERSEYANSí OPINIONS ON

THE DEATH PENALTY

 

SUMMARY

 

In order to assess New Jerseyansí opinions on capital punishment, New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty commissioned the Bloustein Center for Survey Research at Rutgers University to conduct an independent statewide survey of New Jersey residents.The survey involved telephone interviews conducted between April 5 and 11, 2005 with a random probability sample of 801 New Jersey residents 18 years old and older.Percentages for this survey have a sampling error of Ī3.5 percent.

 

†††††††††††

 

x††††††† When asked about their support for capital punishment in general, a majority of New Jerseyans say they favor use of the death penalty for persons convicted of murder Ė 61 percent to 31 percent opposed.However, opposition to the death penalty in New Jersey has risen by 8 percentage points since 1999.

 

x††††††† Support for the death penalty weakens when presented with the option of life in prison with absolutely no chance of parole.Nearly half of state residents (47%) prefer life imprisonment as the penalty for murder compared to only a third (34%) who would choose the death penalty.This represents a reverse in opinion from six years ago when 44 percent of New Jerseyans preferred the death penalty compared to 37 percent for life imprisonment.

 

x††††††† Among those who favor capital punishment over life imprisonment, 38 percent say they would support life in prison if restitution to the victimís family were part of the sentence while over half (58%) would still prefer the death penalty.Among those who cannot choose between the death penalty and life in prison, nearly half (46%) say that the inclusion of restitution would make them more likely to support a life sentence rather than a capital one.

 

x††††††† Almost all residents (94%) believe that innocent people are sometimes convicted of murder.More than one-third of death penalty supporters (36%) say they are less likely to support the death penalty after hearing that over 100 death row convictions have been overturned.However, knowing that some murder victimsí families are opposed to the death penalty has little effect on moving public opinion.

 

x††††††† When the cost of prosecuting capital cases is taken into consideration, two thirds of New Jerseyans (66%) would prefer that the money be used on services for victims or for crime prevention measures.


 

x††††††† Only 8 percent of registered voters report that they have ever voted for or against a candidate largely due to the candidateís position on the death penalty.This includes 7 percent of voters who favor the death penalty and 11 percent of voters who oppose it.

 

x††††††† If their state legislator voted to replace the death penalty with life in prison with no chance of parole, 24 percent of New Jersey voters say they would be more likely to vote for that legislator in the next election, while 15 percent would be less likely.The majority of New Jersey voters (58%) say that this issue would have no impact on their vote intention.

 

x††††††† There is some other indications in the survey that abolishing the death penalty may be less of an issue for capital punishment supporters than it is for opponents.Not surprisingly, just over half (53%) of those voters who oppose the death penalty say that they would be more inclined to cast their ballot for a legislator who voted to replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole.Among voters who support capital punishment though, only (21%) say they would be less inclined to vote for a legislator who took such an action.

 

x††††††† Regardless of their position on the death penalty, a large majority of New Jerseyans support a one to two year moratorium on executions in order to study whether the death penalty is being administered accurately, economically, and fairly.Fully two-thirds of state residents (63%) favor a temporary halt to executions compared with 1-in-3 (32%) who oppose this.

 

x††††††† Support for a one-year moratorium includes a majority (53%) of people who support the death penalty.

 

 

 


SURVEY INSTRUMENT

 

(n=801)

 

M1.††††† Now, Iíd like to ask you a few questions about your views of the death penalty here in New Jersey.Do you favor or oppose the death penalty for persons convicted of murder? [PROBE:Is that strongly or somewhat [favor/oppose]?]

 

41%††† Strongly favor

20††††††† Somewhat favor

11††††††† Somewhat oppose

20††††††† Strongly oppose

8††††††† Donít Know/Refused

 

 

M2.††††† What do you think should be the penalty for murder Ė the death penalty or life in prison with absolutely no chance of parole?

 

34%††† The death penalty

47††††††† Life in prison with absolutely no chance of parole --> SKIP TO Q.M4

19††††††† Donít Know/Refused

 

 

M3.††††† Would you favor or oppose life in prison with no chance of parole as an alternative to the death penalty if the sentence included either restitution to the victimís family or payment to a charity of the familyís choice?

 

††††††††††† 47%††† Already favor from M2

22††††††† Favor

26††††††† Oppose

6††††††† Donít Know/Refused

 

 

M4.††††† Many states are considering a moratorium, or temporary halt, on executions until it can be determined if the death penalty is being administered accurately, economically, and fairly.Do you favor or oppose a one to two year moratorium on executions in New Jersey while the death penalty is studied? [PROBE:Is that strongly or somewhat [favor/oppose]?]

 

37%††† Strongly favor

26††††††† Somewhat favor

9††††††† Somewhat oppose

23††††††† Strongly oppose

6††††††† Donít Know/Refused

 

 

 

M5.††††† Studies in other states show that the death penalty is much more expensive than life without possibility of parole, in part because death penalty trials are longer and more complex.  Would you prefer that the state spend that money on services for victims of crime or on other measures to fight crime such as extra police, or should it continue to be spent on prosecuting death penalty cases?

 

66%††† Spend money on services for victims/measures to fight crime

24††††††† Continue to spend on prosecuting death penalty cases

11††††††† Donít Know/Refused

 

 

M6.††††† Have you ever voted for or against a candidate for public office based largely on the candidateís position on the death penalty?

 

8%††† Yes, have voted for/against candidate based on death penalty position

90††††††† No, have not voted for/against candidate based on death penalty

2††††††† Donít Know/Refused

 

 

M7.††††† If your STATE LEGISLATOR voted to replace the death penalty with life in prison with absolutely no chance of parole, would you be more likely or less likely to vote for him or her, or would this make no difference in your vote choice?[If more/less likely, PROBE:Is that a lot or only a little (more/less) likely?]

 

14%††† A lot more likely to vote for legislator

11††††††† A little more likely to vote for legislator

57††††††† Would make no difference in vote choice

8††††††† A little less likely to vote for legislator

6††††††† A lot less likely to vote for legislator

4††††††† Donít Know/Refused

 

 

M8.††††† Do you think that innocent people are sometimes convicted of murder, or that this never happens?

 

94%††† Sometimes happens

3††††††† Never happens

2††††††† Donít Know/Refused

 


 

[ROTATE M9-M10]

 

M9.††††† The families of some victims in New Jersey are opposed to the death penalty, either for moral reasons or because the long process makes it hard for them to move on with their lives.Does knowing that some murder victims' families are against capital punishment make you more likely to favor the death penalty, more likely to oppose the death penalty, or does this make no difference in your opinion?

 

6%††† More likely to favor

21††††††† More likely to oppose

70††††††† No difference

3††††††† Donít Know/Refused

 

 

M10.†† Across the country, more than one hundred innocent people have been freed from death row after their convictions were overturned, some as a result of DNA testing and others as a result of the exposure of false testimony and other new evidence. Does knowing that more than one hundred death row inmates were wrongly convicted make you more likely to favor the death penalty, more likely to oppose the death penalty, or does this make no difference in your opinion?

 

5%††† More likely to favor

50††††††† More likely to oppose

42††††††† No difference

4††††††† Donít Know/Refused

 

 

 


 

Demographic Characteristics(n=801)

 

 

 

 

 

Registered Voter

 

Family Income

82%

Yes

16%

Under $25,000

18

No

29

$25-49,999

 

 

33

$50-99,999

 

Party Identification

22

$100,000 or more

38%

Democrat

 

 

37

Independent/Other

 

 

26

Republican

 

Child in the home

 

 

38%

Yes

 

Gender

62

No

48%

Male

 

 

52

Female

 

Years in New Jersey

 

 

13%

10 or less

 

Education

29

11 to 30

48%

High School or Less

58

More than 30/entire life

23

Some College

 

 

29

College Grad

 

Region of the State

 

 

45%

North

 

Race

26

Central

72%

White, non-Hispanic

30

South

28

Hispanic, Black, Asian, other

 

 

 

 

 

Type of Municipality

 

Age

10%

Major Urban Center

19%

18 to 29

12

Other Urban Area

41

30 to 49

38

Older Town & Suburb

21

50 to 64

35

Growing Suburb & Town

20

65 and older

5

Rural Area

 

 

 

 

 

Religion

 

Religious Attendance

43%

Catholic

8%

More than once a week

28

Protestant

28

Weekly

6

Evangelical

16

Once or twice a month

5

Jewish

20

Few times a year

3

Other

15

Seldom

7

Agnostic/Atheist

11

Never

7

No answer

2

No answer