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American support for death penalty falls to 60 percent: Gallup

By Lisa Maria Garza

(Reuters) - Sixty percent of Americans favor capital punishment for convicted murderers, the lowest percentage since 1972, according to a Gallup poll released on Tuesday.

At its peak in the mid-1990s, capital punishment support was at 80 percent, the polling group said.

"The current era of lower support may be tied to death penalty moratoriums in several states beginning around 2000 after several death-row inmates were later proven innocent of the crimes of which they were convicted," Gallup said.

Since 2006, six states have repealed death penalty laws outright, including Maryland this year, Gallup said.

Eighty-one percent of Republicans, 47 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of independents support the death penalty, according to the poll.

The largest decrease was found among Democrats, 75 percent of whom supported the death penalty in 1994.

Gallup has been measuring Americans' attitudes about capital punishment since 1936. Fifty-seven percent were in favor of the death penalty in November 1972.

The U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.

Support for the death penalty increased from 1976 and reached a peak in 1994, when Americans named crime as the biggest problem plaguing the nation, the report said.

Gallop randomly sampled 1,028 people by telephone in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia from October 3 to 6. The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points, Gallup said.

(Editing By Brendan O'Brien and Mohammad Zargham)

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