Motion to repeal: Against the death penalty

Last April, the Connecticut state legislature repealed the death penalty, making it the fifth state in the past five years to take that step (New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Illinois are the others). Yet in November, voters in California rejected by a 53 to 47 margin a bid to repeal the death penalty. Those two decisions of 2012 reveal the conflicted state of national debate on capital punishment.

In all 17 states in which capital punishment is outlawed, the change has come through legislative action. Support for the death penalty generally remains high among voters—and may have even intensified over the past two decades. A 2011 Gallup poll found that only 27 percent of Americans think that executions are immoral—down from 41 percent in 1991.

According to the Pew Research Center, the death penalty is endorsed by 77 percent of white evangelicals, 73 percent of white mainliners, 40 percent of black Protestants and 59 percent of Roman Catholics.