Why Conservatives Should Oppose The Death Penalty


For the first time in years, public support for the death penalty in the United States increased in 2018. Before the bump to 54-percent support last year, approval for capital punishment stood at 49 percent in 2016. Though it has declined somewhat since its peak of nearly 90 percent in the 90s, support has remained very high among Republicans—77 percent in 2018—versus 52 percent for independents and 35 percent for Democrats, according to the Pew Research Center.

Despite these strong numbers, however, the common cases defending the use of the death penalty are not only feeble, but contrary to conservative principles. These arguments generally fall into two categories—deterrence and proportionality.

The assertion that the death penalty deters would-be murderers from killing is certainly the more suspect of the two. Looking at past data, it’s clear that the relationship between executions and the rate of homicide does not support the deterrence claim. During the 1990s, executions rose while the murder rate fell. Yet, since 2000, executions have decreased while the murder rate has continued to decline.

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