One of the most overrated "trends" of recent years has been the decline in support for the death penalty. The latest Pew poll shows 68 percent of respondents supporting the death penalty; this number hasn't changed much in recent years. Supporters of the death penalty are much more likely to feel "strongly" about their view than are opponents. Perhaps more remarkable is that in no demographic group do opponents outnumber supporters. Even among liberal Democrats, supporters outnumber opponents 44%-42%; 42% of African-Americans support the death penalty, while 41% oppose it. (The death penalty is most popular among men over 50, white Protestants [both mainline and evangelical], and Republicans). On the other hand, 55% of respondents oppose the death penalty for juveniles. White women are especially likely to support the death penalty in general but not for the underage.
The Pew poll does show an uptick in support for stem-cell research. 57% of respondents believe it is more important to conduct research than to preserve embryos; this 14 points higher than in March 2002. Support is broad but not overwhelming across most demographic groups, with liberal Democrats, the college-educated and the less religious backing research most strongly. The only groups where majorities of respondents believe it is more important to preserve embroys are white evangelicals, conservative Republicans, and (interestingly) black Protestants. Over the past three years, support for research has grown in most demographic groups, but evangelicals and conservative Republicans have remain steadfast in their opposition. (Not surprisingly, a majority of stem cell opponents cite their religion as the primary influence on their views; supporters are more likely to look to the media or their education).