Q Poll Finds Public Split on Death Penalty When Given Option of Life In Prison Without Release, Supportive of Minimum Wage Hike

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A new Quinnipiac University poll out this morning finds Connecticut residents evenly divided over the death penalty, which was recently repealed by state lawmakers, and broadly supportive of the minimum wage.

Seventy percent back some increase in the current $8.25-an-hour wage: 6 percent want it raised to less than $9.25 an hour, 34 percent want it raised to $9.25 an hour, and 27 percent want it raise to more than $9.25 an hour while 28 percent favor no increase at all.

Every category of voters, except Republicans, favor some level of minimum wage increase. State lawmakers are currently weighing a proposal to increase the wage by 50 cents an hour in each of the next two years.  If approved, the hourly wage would rise from the current $8.25 to $8.75 on Jan. 1, 2013, and to $9.25 on Jan. 1, 2014. The following year, the rate would be tied to the Consumer Price Index. The measure, championed by House Speaker Chris Donovan, is expected to come up for a vote before the end of the legislative session at midnight on May 9, though its longterm prospects are uncertain: Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has not yet indicated whether supports the proposal.

Forty six percent of respondents said they support capital punishment and that same percentage back life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to the poll. Earlier this month, the state House of Representatives and the Senate voted to eliminate the death penalty for new cases, exempting the 11 men currently on Connecticut\’s death row. Malloy, a death penalty opponent, has signed the bill into law.

This morning\’s poll represents a bit of a do-over for Quinnipiac. In a poll conducted last month, before the vote in the General Assembly, Quinnipaic asked if residents support or oppose capital punishment without giving the option of life in prison without the possibility of release. In that survey, 62 oppose repeal.

Supporters of the repeal effort were critical, saying framing the question without giving respondents the option of life without the possibility of release skewed the answer.

\”The death penalty is a complex issue for voters, and for pollsters,\” said Quinnipiac Poll Director Douglas Schwartz in a press release accompanying the poll numbers.  \”While they want to keep the death penalty on the books, voters are divided on whether they prefer to sentence convicted murderers to death or life without parole. In fact, 74 percent say a life or death sentence depends on the circumstances of the case.

\”A simple yes-no question on the death penalty suggests voters want it as an option. Adding the life without parole option shows that voters are more lenient when it comes to administering punishment,\’\’ Schwartz added.

In today\’s poll, 62 percent of those surveyed said they favor keeping the death penalty as the public policy of the state of Connecticut.

Younger people — those 34 and under — overwhelmingly favor life in prison without the possibility of release while older respondents were more divided. Among Catholics who said they attend church weekly, 53 percent said they favor the death penalty while 39 percent support life in prison without the possibility of release.

The prospective nature of the repeal bill — the fact that it only applies to cases in the future, not the 11 death row inmates — was backed by 21 percent of the poll respondents. Twenty five percent said it should be abolished in all cases, while 46 percent oppose abolition entirely.

The poll suggests the death penalty may not be a very potent issue at the polls come November, when state lawmakers face reelection: 37 percent percent of respondents said the death penalty is extremely important or very important to the way they intend to vote in November. Forty five percent said it was somewhat important and 17 percent said it was not important.

The telephone poll of 1,745 Connecticut registered voters was conducted from April 18 to 23. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.



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