Saturday, October 05, 2002

Taking America's death pulse:
Dateline: New Mexico

A new poll of New Mexicans shows support for the death penalty remains strong in a state that last year executed someone for the first time in more than 40 years. A statewide poll commissioned by The New Mexican newspaper of Santa Fe and KOB television of Albuquerque shows 66 percent of voters favor the death penalty. The random sampling of 421 likely voters by telephone Sept. 24-26 has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

Twenty-six percent oppose the death penalty and 8 percent are undecided, the poll shows.

"We've found that around the country, support for the death penalty grew after Sept. 11 (2001)," said Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research of Washington, D.C., which conducted the poll.

An April 1999 poll done by Mason-Dixon for the newspaper and another television station found 65 percent favored the death penalty.

Cathy Ansheles (Ed. Note: who is obviously unable to see that 66 percent is higher than 65 percent), coordinator of The New Mexico Coalition to Repeal the Death Penalty, said she believes the trend is swinging against capital punishment.

Support for the death penalty drops when New Mexico voters are given a choice of a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole for capital crimes. Under that circumstance, 43 percent of respondents in last week's poll favored repealing the death penalty; 48 percent supported it.

Men, Anglos and Republicans show the largest percentage of support for the death penalty, mirroring the findings of earlier polls.

Seventy-four percent of men favor capital punishment, compared with 58 percent of women; 74 percent of Anglos favor the death penalty, compared with 54 percent of Hispanics; 81 percent of Republicans support it compared with 56 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of independents.

Last November, New Mexico executed convicted child killer Terry Clark in the first execution in the state since January 1960.