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New Poll Brings Good News For Opponents Of California Death Penalty

A condemned inmate is led out of his east block cell on death row at San Quen...

Photo by Associated Press

Above: A condemned inmate is led out of his east block cell on death row at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, Calif., Aug. 16, 2016.

A new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) shows 62 percent of Californians said they do not want the death penalty to be the sentence for first-degree murder. That's a record high percentage of people opposed to the death penalty for PPIC, which has polled the public on the topic since the year 2,000.

The Public Policy Institute, based in San Francisco, released the poll Thursday that included responses on a variety of state issues, including housing affordability and spending on wildfire prevention.

Mark Baldasarre, the organization's president, said its survey was already underway when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a moratorium on the death penalty in California. In response, PPIC pollsters decided to add the question on execution to their survey.

Photo credit: Public Policy Institute of California

Mark Baldasarre, president and CEO of the Public Policy Institute of California, shown in a 2018 portrait.

Baldasarre said the strong opposition to capital punishment is remarkable, in part, because just three years ago Californians voted down an initiative to abolish it.

"It's always a challenge for proponents of initiatives to overcome the doubts and uncertainties that can be created in the course of a campaign by the opponents," Baldasarre said. "The question is whether opinion has shifted further enough this time that if it comes to the ballot in 2020 there might be a different outcome."

Only 31 percent of the adults polled said the death penalty should be used in cases of first-degree murder. Among likely voters, support for the death penalty was a bit stronger at 38 percent.

A record numbers of Californians also see housing affordability as a "big problem" in their part of the state. In San Diego and Orange Counties, 71 percent of respondents thought this. The statewide average was 69 percent.

Baldasarre added that 47 percent of adults said the cost of housing is making them seriously think about moving and in most cases they are referring to leaving California.

"Young Californians, those under the age of 35, are the most likely to say they're considering moving because of the cost of housing. And this is a great concern about the quality of life and the economy of California," he said.

Meanwhile, a report from CoreLogic shows home sales in Southern California have fallen on a year-to-year basis for seven straight months — a sign of the lack of housing affordability.

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