Painfully Botched Executions Don't Shake Broad Support For The Death Penalty

05/05/2014 06:09 pm ET | Updated May 06, 2014

Americans claim they don't want those condemned to death to suffer needlessly, but recent news of painfully botched lethal injections has not shaken their support for the death penalty, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll shows.

Sixty-five percent of Americans -- including 82 percent of Republicans, 66 percent of independents and 53 percent of Democrats -- said they support the death penalty for people convicted of murder.

A January HuffPost/YouGov poll similarly found that 62 percent of Americans favor the death penalty. The January poll was conducted shortly after Ohio executed Dennis McGuire, who gasped for air and took more than 20 minutes to die after being injected with an untested cocktail of drugs.

Last week brought yet another grisly example of a lethal injection gone wrong. Clayton Lockett, an Oklahoma inmate, reportedly suffered a collapsed vein after the injection and writhed in pain before dying of a heart attack more than 40 minutes after the procedure began.

On Friday, President Barack Obama called Lockett's execution "deeply disturbing" and said he would ask the attorney general to review how the death penalty is used in the United States. Obama has said in the past that he favors the death penalty in some cases.

As with McGuire's execution in Ohio, the drugs used to kill Lockett had been an issue. Lockett and Charles Warner, another inmate who had been scheduled to be executed the same day, fought a protracted court battle over whether Oklahoma could keep the sources of the drugs it used secret. States have been turning to alternative sources, including loosely regulated compounding pharmacies, since the European manufacturers of the drugs traditionally used for lethal injections have cut off their supplies in recent years. Anti-death penalty activists contend that the untested drug cocktails states are now using can lead to cruelly painful and inhumanely long executions.

The more recent HuffPost poll, conducted after Lockett's execution, found that most Americans think those being executed should not be subjected to unnecessary pain. Among respondents who said they believe in the death penalty, 58 percent said that methods of execution should be as quick and painless as possible, while only 31 percent said that should not be a priority.

On the other hand, 74 percent of death penalty proponents -- and 49 percent of Americans overall -- said they favor the death penalty even if the person being executed might suffer extreme pain and struggle for breath for more than 20 minutes before dying.

And lethal injection remains Americans' method of choice for executions. Sixty percent said they approve of using lethal injection. The electric chair -- the second most popular method of execution and one that the condemned can still choose in several states -- lagged far behind at only 41 percent support.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted May 1-2 among 1,000 U.S. adults using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here.

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