DEATH PENALTY SUPPORT AT NEW HIGH IN STATE, NEW POLL FINDS; VOTERS HIGH ON MEDICAL MARIJUANA, SUNDAY LIQUOR SALES

From Quinnipiac polling:

Connecticut voters support the death penalty 67 – 28 percent, inching up to a new high,and say 48 – 43 percent that the penalty for first degree murder should be the death penalty rather than life in prison with no chance of parole, also a new high, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Support for the death penalty, 65 – 23 percent in an October 13, 2010, survey by the independent Quinnipiac University, has inched up in every survey since the July 23, 2007, Cheshire murders. Support for the death penalty was 59 – 31 percent January 12, 2005, before the murders. In that same 2005 Quinnipiac University poll, Connecticut voters preferred life in prison w ithout parole over the death penalty 49 – 37 percent.

In today’s survey, death penalty support is 55 – 40 percent among Democrats, 80 – 18 percent among Republicans and 68 – 26 percent among independent voters. Men support the death penalty 73 – 24 percent, while women support it 62 – 32 percent.

Offered three choices, 10 percent favor the death penalty for all people convicted of murder; 16 percent say no one should be executed and 73 percent say the death penalty depends on the circumstances of each case.

“Historically, voters favor the death penalty about 2-1 when they are asked a simple yes-no question. When they are offered the choice, however, between the death penalty and life in prison with no chance of parole, voters have been evenly divided,” said Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz, PhD.

“In Connecticut, the Cheshire home invasion murders appear to have changed that. Now voters back the death penalty no matter how we ask the question, but by a smaller margin, when they have the life without parole option,” Dr. Schwartz added.

Connecticut voters favor the death penalty 74 – 21 percent for Stephen Hayes, who has been convicted in the Cheshire murders, and 72 – 22 percent for Joshua Komisarjevsky if he is found guilty when his case comes to trial.

Voters support 79 – 17 percent allowing adults to use marijuana if a doctor prescribes it for medical reasons. Support is over 70 percent among every group in the survey. Connecticut voters also support 65 – 32 percent decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. Support ranges from 53 – 45 percent among Republicans to 70 – 27 percent among Democrats, from 70 – 28 percent among voters 18 to 34 years old to 58 – 38 percent among voters over 65 years old. No group is opposed.

Voters also want to buy liquor on Sunday and support 66 – 31 percent allowing liquor stores to open on Sunday. This is the highest level of support ever for this question, up from 56 – 39 percent March 18, 2010.

But voters oppose 50 – 43 percent allowing groceries to sell wine or hard liquor. Republicans support the measure 50 – 46 percent while opposition is 48 – 44 percent among Democrats and 54 – 38 percent among independent voters. Men split 47 – 47 percent while women are opposed 52 – 41 percent.

“Both Sunday liquor sales and decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana win 2-1 support among Connecticut voters. And there is a near consensus on the medical marijuana law with about 8 in 10 voters supporting it,” Dr. Schwartz said. “It is rare to see such a level of support for any issue.”