Upcoming Events

Poll Indicates Support for Death Penalty Eroding In Illinois: Public Opinion Shifting Towards Abolishing Death Penalty

A recent independent poll of registered Illinois voters finds public opinion in support of the death penalty is eroding across the state, with many voters not even aware it's still a punishment option.

The Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (ICADP) has released findings from a spring poll showing more than 60% of voters support alternative sentences for criminals and believe the millions of taxpayer dollars currently being spent to fund the process could be used in a more effective manner.

In 2000, then Gov. George Ryan halted all executions after media investigations revealed a myriad of problems with the state's capital punishment system. More inmates were found wrongly sentenced to death than were executed, prompting Ryan to order a more detailed review process and other reforms. He eventually cleared death row in 2003.

Since 2003, taxpayers have spent more than $100 million on the Capital Litigation Trust Fund despite the moratorium blocking all executions. Illinois has the nation's second-highest rate of flawed death row convictions, with 20 men exonerated from their sentences after evidence of their wrongful convictions emerged.

“This poll indicates the public understands what we already know, the death penalty is too costly for Illinois,” said Jeremy Schroeder, Executive Director of the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. “Public opinion supports tough sentences, but does not support the death penalty. It’s a public policy that risks executing the innocent, fails to meet the needs of murder victims’ families and costs millions of dollars more than alternatives. The time has come to begin discussing the repeal of this flawed system.”

The independent poll was conducted by Lake Research Partners in Washington, D.C. and was based on a telephone survey of 400 registered voters in Illinois, from April 15-19, 2010. The margin of error is 4.9%.

Poll Findings

  • More than 60 percent of voters prefer a sentence other than death for murder. Voters chose life without parole and restitution for victims’ families over the death penalty.
  • Voters want funds redirected towards stronger crime fighting efforts rather than death penalty spending. The $12 million annual cost to prosecute death penalty cases despite a moratorium prompted voters to support life without parole by a 2-to-1 margin (64%-30%).
  • Voters are unaware Illinois even has the death penalty. Only 39% of voters were aware the state has a capital punishment option; 61% of voters did not know.