Death Penalty and Gay Marriage
By: Mark W Adams

My old friend, Cleveland Attorney Phil Althouse, a homeless and consumer advocate, sent along two interesting articles, data points in the arsenal of reality.

Both are from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (subscription required), which concern the passage of an "advisory referendum" approving reinstatement of the death penalty passed the in the deep, deep blue State of Wisconsin, which also passed an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment.

What the referendums left off the ballot was an alternative choice -- civil unions as an alternative to gay marriage (favored 51%-28%), and life without parole as an alternative to the death penalty, favored by the majority of those polled by the paper:

When the Badger Poll asked state residents last spring whether they favored reinstating the death penalty, 56% said "yes." When an advisory referendum posed the same question on Tuesday, 56% of state voters replied "yes."

The Badger Poll went on to ask an important second question: Is the death penalty or life imprisonment with no possibility of parole a better punishment for murder? About 50% chose life imprisonment and 45% chose the death penalty.

Notably, the referendum did not ask that follow-up question.

Instead, it confirmed what polls have long suggested: When presented with no other options, a majority will say they favor the death penalty. But in Wisconsin, there is an alternative that polling routinely shows has more support: life with no chance of parole.

So until that follow-up question is put to voters, lawmakers should avoid misreading the referendum result as a mandate for the death penalty, which a wise Legislature scuttled in 1853. The last Legislature not so wisely toyed with reinstating a penalty that the world is gradually abandoning.
We have a long way to go to make our government truly representative, like universal health care which is supported by an overwhelming super-majority, and has been the case for years.

1 Comment:

Mark W Adams said...

According to This commentor at KOS, who actually reads the paper (made from trees? yech) in WI, their already walking back the gay marriage amendment, and the death penalty advisory referrendum was dead on arival.