Friday, March 28, 2008

Intresting Graph

Via Volokh, here's an interesting graph courtesy of the Gallup folks. It tracks the answers to a question they've asked for 70 years:

Are you in favor of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder?
In 1937, 59% said yes, while 38% said no. Last year, the numbers were 69% and 27%, respectively. In the 1990s the numbers were the furthest apart, with 80% in favor and 16% against. In only one survey, from 1966, did the yeas (42%) get out polled by the neas (47%).

I agree with Orin over at Volokh that the question itself isn't particularly helpful because it it open to so many interpretations, but the fact that it was asked in the same way over all that time provides an interesting insight into public opinion on the issue.

4 comments:

MountainLaurel said...

It does provide a key into the thoughts that we have. I think such a shift is quite disturbing myself. But should such a thing as the taking of a human life be decided by opinion poll?

Elvis Drinkmo said...

I agree with Laurel- life and death should not be a matter of public opinion.

The results were probably different in 1937 because: A) they didn't have all these dumbass TV shows that demonize and dehumanize certain groups of people and B) because they didn't have sell-out Democrats like William Jefferson Clinton holding the highest office in the land like in the 90's. Like the scumbag that he is- he took a lot of pride in executing a half-mentally retarded black man when he was on the 1992 campaign trail.

JDB said...

OK, Laurel and Elvis, I'm intrigued - then who should make that decision? Do you mean writing a ban on capital punishment into a foundational document (i.e., the Constitution)?. If that document is silent on the issue, who makes the decision? What if the document specifically calls for it?

Elvis Drinkmo said...

Interesting question, JDB.

On other blogs where I've engaged genuinely thoughtful people on the other side, they have routinely blasted me for having no right to make such "absolute" comments on things like the death penalty because I have no faith or God to fall back on. This was the driving force for me to create a satirical blog about worshiping Batman and Starfleet. So I could be a smartass and say, "well, the United Federation of Planets has abolished the death penalty; therefore it is wrong. It's right there in the scrptures."

But there are universal principles that most people adhere to. One of the principles is that taking a human life is immoral whether it's a human individual who wants a new watch or a state which seeks revenge. Then someone would say, "based on what? You don't even believe in God or gods".

But from a legal standpoint rather than a moral one, the 8th amendment is supposed to protect us from "cruel and unusual punishment". I can't imagine anything more cruel or unusual than killing somebody.

I would site Thurgood Marshall's majority opinion in Furman v. Georgia (1972?). Justice Marshall makes some very good arguments against the legality of capital punishment and I would write about them at Appalachian Greens if I hadn't sold back by pre-law book in college so I'd have $15 to drink beer that night back when I was a dumbass kid.

To answer your question: I firmly believe in the Supreme Court's right to trump majority opinion. That's one of the few things about our democarcy that makes it unique (even if that branch of government is currently packed with zealot jackasses) . Even though Furman was overturned, it's still there and needs to be revisited.

I hope that answers your question, JDB.