Gallup released a poll Tuesday showing that 60 percent of Americans favor capital punishment—the lowest rate in nearly 40 years. This comes about a month after the FBI released its 2012 national crime statistics, the latest data point in a long-term reduction in violent crime since the early 1990s. As the two graphs below show, these two figures have similar trajectories. So does violent crime influence public support for the death penalty?
Correlation does not necessarily equal causation, of course. John Blume, director of the Death Penalty Project at Cornell University Law School, says declining support comes from a combination of factors, including recent high-profile exoneration cases and a growing awareness of its costs. But, he says, “historically there has been less support for capital punishment in times when rates of violent crime are lower.”