A new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll finds support building for a California ballot initiative that would repeal the death penalty and replace it with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in that state. Although opponents of the ballot initiative retain a 45-42 edge in the poll, this is a significant shift from September, when 51 percent supported retaining state-sponsored executions and only 38 percent would vote to repeal them. Moreover, when voters are read the actual language that will appear on the ballot this November, which includes an explanation that repealing the death penalty is estimated to eventually save the state $130 million a year, a 45 percent plurality of voters express support for ending executions.
Regardless of whether California voters repeal the death penalty this year, the nation as a whole is trending away from it. Though death sentences remain legal in most states, actual executions are very rare in most of the country. According to a 2011 study by the Death Penalty Information Center, 32 U.S. jurisdictions — including California — executed no one in the previous 5 years and more than half of those jurisdictions executed no one after the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Just 12 states executed someone in 2010, only 7 of which executed more than one person.