Most Canadians favor reinstating the death penalty for murder


A majority of Canadians say they support reinstating the death penalty for murder, according to a new poll.

In an online survey of 1,002 Canadian adults by Angus Reid, conducted in partnership with the Toronto Star, sixty-one per cent said they support reinstating capital punishment — which the Canadian government abolished in 1976. However, 34 per cent of respondents disagreed.

According to pollsters, while a majority of Canadians say they support the return of capital punishment, this support “drops considerably” when given the choice of life in prison without parole. Fifty per cent of respondents said they prefer life imprisonment without the possibility of parole while 38 per cent supported the death penalty.

In the survey, 63 per cent of survey respondents said capital punishment is sometimes appropriate, with 23 per cent saying it is never warranted and eight per cent saying it is always appropriate.

Support for and opposition to the death penalty was divided along regional lines.

“Western Canadians support the return of the death penalty by a 3-to-1 margin, and prefer it to the idea of life imprisonment without parole. Quebecers and Ontarians are lukewarm on the possibility of capital punishment coming back, and would rather see murderers in prison for the rest of their lives,” according to the study.

Seventy-two per cent of respondents in both British Columbia and Alberta said they support capital punishment, along with sixty-two per cent of Ontarians. Fifty-eight per cent of these respondents said the death penalty would serve as a deterrent. Only 23 per cent of this group believe murderers can be rehabilitated.

The poll found that opponents of the death penalty were mostly in Quebec (45 per cent). Respondents from Ontario (32 per cent) and British Columbia (24 per cent) also voiced their opposition. Seventy-five per cent of these respondents said they were concerned with the possibility of wrongful convictions leading to executions. Fifty-five per cent felt it is wrong to take a convicted murderer’s life as punishment.

Also, nearly half of death penalty opponents (48 per cent) don’t think it would serve as a deterrent, 31 per cent said convicted murderers should serve their time in prison and 21 per cent believe murderers can be rehabilitated.

When given a choice between the death penalty and life imprisonment, 49 per cent of Ontario respondents and 55 per cent from Quebec chose life imprisonment without parole. Respondents from British Columbia (52 per cent) and Alberta (49 per cent) responded to that choice by calling for a return of the death penalty.

Respondents who voted Conservative in the 2011 federal election are more likely to regard the death penalty as appropriate (88 per cent), to support the return of capital punishment (80 per cent), and to prefer imposing the death penalty over life in prison (50 per cent).

A majority of those who voted for the Liberal Party (52 per cent), Bloc Quebecois (52 per cent) and the Green Party (55 per cent) said they opposed the death penalty and preferred life in prison for convicted murderers. Forty-five per cent of NDP voters were more likely to oppose the death penalty, with 49 per cent in favour of it.

The online survey included a sample of 1,002 Canadian adults. It was conducted from Feb. 2 to Feb. 3, 2012.The margin of error is within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.