Most registered Texan voters still support capital punishment, a new poll has found, with close to three quarters of all respondents stating that they are either somewhat or strongly in favor of the death penalty. The results have been published just following reports that revealed the state executed a man more than 20 years ago for a crime he did not commit.
The study, a joint project by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune, found that while 73 percent of voting residents fully or somewhat support the death penalty, only 21 percent of voting residents are somewhat or strongly opposed to it. In terms of how fair they find capital punishment, 51 percent said that they believe it is fairly applied, 28 percent said it was unfair, while 21 percent could not give an opinion.
"They're pretty strong proponents of the death penalty," said Daron Shaw, a UT-Austin government professor and co-director of the poll. "But you've got a lot of other people who are pretty hard on crime but aren't sure the death penalty works."
"We have had dramatic support for the death penalty for a long time. And given an alternative, there's not a wholesale rush for the exits," added co-director Jim Henson, who teaches government at the University of Texas at Austin.
In general, Texas remains one of the most pro-death penalty states in the country. According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, 482 people have been executed in the state and dozens more remain on death row. Thirty-two other states still also carry out capital punishment, although in March Connecticut officially became the fifth U.S. state in the past five years to abolish the death penalty.
The results come only weeks after an in-depth investigation led by a Columbia School of Law professor found that 27-year-old Carlos DeLuna was executed in 1989 for a murderer he did not commit. He was mistaken for the real criminal who resembled him and shared the same first name.
"Unfortunately, the flaws in the system that wrongfully convicted and executed DeLuna – faulty eyewitness testimony, shoddy legal representation and prosecutorial misconduct – continue to send innocent men to their death today," a statement accompanying the report by professor James Liebman and five of his students observed.
The UT/TT poll questioned 800 Texas voters and was conducted May 7-13 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.46 percentage points.
Besides the death penalty questions, pollsters also asked voters to state their opinion on various other subjects, ranging from abortion to the economy and state of the country. Respondents identified themselves as 33 percent Republican, 31 percent Democrats, and 28 percent Independent.