Last week Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber announced that no more executions would occur during his time in office. The announcement came after he halted an execution that was set to take place this month. In the wake of the devastating execution of Troy Davis in Georgia and at a time when many elected officials are reexamining their stance on the death penalty, is public opinion shifting?
In early 2011, lawmakers in Illinois voted to place a moratorium on the death penalty. Legislators there cited 13 death row inmates who were found to have been wrongfully convicted prior to their execution, and in March of 2011 Governor Pat Quinn signed the bill into law. To date, 16 states (plus the District of Columbia) have chosen to do away with the death penalty, citing discriminatory practices and taxpayer expense as primary reasons.
The news from Oregon and other states is in keeping with the latest reports on public opinion on the death penalty. A Gallup poll released in October found that opposition has hit its highest level in nearly 40 years. That poll was taken just after Troy Davis' execution, just after ColorOfChange members and thousands of others mobilized to make clear that there was too much doubt for the state to kill Davis.
How should public opinion be harnessed to impact policy? We welcome your thoughts in the comments section.