As the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles today refused to recommend clemency for Karla Faye Tucker, more than half of Americans agree with the likely outcome of the Board's decision. Fifty-four percent of those who have heard something about her case think she should be executed as scheduled; 37 percent say her sentence should have been reduced to life in prison. More than a quarter of Americans say they have heard or read nothing about her case.
Of those who know about this case, by a margin of 62 percent to 30 percent, more men think Tucker should be executed. This follows historical trends showing men to generally be more supportive of the death penalty than women. Women are split on Tucker's fate: 47 percent think she should be executed; 44 percent say her sentence should have been reduced.
Twenty percent of people who generally support life in prison over the death penalty, in this case, support executing Tucker. Only nine percent of death penalty supporters say that Karla Faye Tucker's sentence should be commuted.
THE QUESTION OF SPECIAL TREATMENT
Support for Tucker's execution may have something to do with the fact that the public wants to see the death penalty administered equally between men and women. Almost all Americans who favor the death penalty under at least some circumstances feel women should receive that punishment under the exact same circumstances as men. Only three percent think women should get the death penalty only under extreme circumstances, and one percent say women should never get it.
More than two-thirds of those who know about Tucker's case believe it received special attention because she is a woman. A quarter do not believe that is true.
DEATH PENALTY OPINIONS IN GENERAL
Americans support the death penalty for convicted murderers, even when given the possibility of life in prison with no parole. By 45 percent to 38 percent, the public favors the death penalty. Thirteen percent volunteer that it depends
on the circumstance. However, support for the death penalty when asked with the life imprisonment option is slightly lower than it has been in the past decade or so. (When asked in other polls, support for the death penalty is even higher when people are not given the option of life in prison.)
Historically, there has been a gender gap in opinion on the death penalty, with men more likely than women to favor the death penalty. There also has been a racial divide. Majorities of whites favor the death penalty, while majorities of blacks have consistently opposed the death penalty.
This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 620 adults by telephone February 1, 1998. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus four percentage points for results based on the entire sample.