The 2016 Presidential Election was ripe with controversial debate. One topic not as thoroughly discussed as others was that of the death penalty. While public support for capital punishment is continuously waning in America, two out of the four main candidates running for office support the death penalty. It probably comes as no surprise to readers that those candidates were now-President Donald Trump and Democratic contender Hillary Clinton.
Prior to announcing his run for President, Donald Trump made the statement to Fox and Friends that the death penalty should be forcefully brought back, citing the May 2015 shooting deaths of two police officers in Mississippi. Hillary Clinton also expressed support for the death penalty. Jill Stein (the Green Party candidate) and Gary Johnson (the Libertarian Party candidate) do not support capital punishment as many have been wrongfully convicted of crimes punishable by death.
Recent research shows a declining trend in support for the death penalty since the 1980’s. In fact, somewhere around 56% to 61% of Americans still favor the death penalty – much lower percentages than thirty years ago.
Support for the death penalty was made evident by voting trends in several states. Voters in Nebraska reinstated the death penalty there, reversing a 2015 decision to repeal it. The state currently has ten men sitting on death row and has not executed a prisoner since 1997.
Although the death penalty has not been repealed in California, the ballot contained a measure that would have repealed it as well as one that would speed up appeals to execute prisoners. The latter barely passed, now limiting the number of appeals a prisoner can make and implementing deadlines that expedite the appeals. In stark contrast to Nebraska, California currently has 750 death row inmates.
Also, voters in Oklahoma voted for a measure that makes it exponentially more difficult to get rid of capital punishment and declared the death penalty to not be a form of cruel or unusual punishment.
While the death penalty is currently legal in 31 states, it is rarely used, and generally is only in extreme cases. Since President Trump recently Tweeted that pedophiles who snatch up children should have fast trials that end with the accused being given the death penalty, it is entirely possible that there will be a resurgence in debate over the death penalty. Whether or not more voters will support or oppose capital punishment remains to be seen.