The majority of Wisconsin voters support the death penalty. According to a new poll by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, 54% of those surveyed favored the death penalty for first degree intentional homicide, as long as the conviction is supported by DNA evidence. Thirty-seven percent were opposed to a constitutional amendment. The group's president Jim Miller says the margins change based on ideology. “Obviously liberals are very opposed to this, conservatives are very much in favor of it. There's a little bit of a gender gap where 61% of men in the state favor it, only 47% of women favor it.”

Miller says Madison residents oppose the death penalty by 60%, otherwise, only 28% of Wisconsin voters oppose it. John Huebscher, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, opposes this resolution, saying just because it's popular, it doesn't mean it's right. Miller responds to that. “Well, excuse me. I mean, who decides what's right? I mean, you know, what's right for some people are wrong for others. And there are other issues you can talk about. They'll also get into morality whether it be abortion or even gay rights. So, a lot of it depends on who's defining what right or wrong.”

State Senator Alan Lasee (R-De Pere) has advocated for a return of the death penalty for most of his 28 years in office. The question in November is a non-binding referendum. Meanwhile, the poll also shows taxes continue to be a serious issue in Wisconsin for 26% of the state's voters, followed by healthcare, education, general economic issues, government issues and jobs. In the city of Milwaukee, crime is the most important concern.

Huebscher reminds us, “The death penalty was popular in the 1850s when the legislature got rid of it.” Meanwhile, the poll shows conservatives support the death penalty by a 64% to 27% margin, while liberals oppose it by a 55% to 35% margin.

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Survey details (pdf)
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