Poll Finds Lowest Level of Support for Death Penalty in 40 Years

The majority of Americans still approve the practice in certain cases, but that number has been waning

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A woman wears an anti-death penalty tee-shirt during the 20th annual Starvin' for Justice fast and vigil against the death penalty in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington on June 29, 2013.

On Tuesday, Gallup announced that 60% of Americans currently say they support the death penalty, the lowest level of support the polling company has found since 1972. Their ongoing survey has shown a gradual decline in recent decades, though the majority of Americans are still in support of capital punishment in cases involving convicted murderers.

That’s in line with previous findings: Gallup has been surveying the American public on this topic since the 1930s and only one time did the nays outweigh the yeas. That year, 1966, was “an era marked by philosophical and legal challenges to the death penalty from the mid-1950s through the early 1970s,” the pollsters write. They suggest that the current dip may be linked to recent moratoriums on the practice across the U.S., put in place after death-row inmates were proven innocent— often with the help of DNA evidence.

The new finding comes at a time when European pharmaceutical companies are refusing to ship lethal drugs to U.S. states who plan to use them in executions. In August, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice announced that the state’s supply of pentobarbital would run out this fall, in part due to a Danish company’s stance on the issue.