Most Canadians say death penalty OK

Brian Lilley, Parliamentary Bureau

, Last Updated: 6:51 PM ET

OTTAWA - Two-thirds of Canadians support the death penalty, according to a recent poll, although less than half of the country wants the government to bring it back into Canadian law.

Capital punishment jumped back into the news last week when Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in an interview he supported the death penalty.

"I, personally, think there are times where capital punishment is appropriate,” Harper told CBC, but insisted he had no plans to bring the measure back.

Parliament banned capital punishment in 1976.

Opposition parties slammed Harper’s comments.

“If Mr. Harper is genuinely in favour of capital punishment, then he should say so and bring a bill to floor of the House of Commons,” Liberal MP David McGuinty said.

It turns out such a bill would garner more support than Harper's Conservatives currently do in the polls.

Over the weekend, Ottawa’s Abacus Data found that 66% of Canadians agree with Harper and support the death penalty “in certain circumstances,” but only 41% want the feds to bring back it back a punishment for murder.

The largest group, 41%, said they agreed with the death penalty in certain circumstances and believe the government should reinstate it, while 25% said they support the death penalty but do not believe it should be reinstated.

Total opposition to the death penalty came in at 28%, and another 7% were undecided.

Abacus CEO David Coletto said he doubts Harper’s comments will cost him much in the way of voter support.

“The prime minister's comment demonstrates how well he knows his core base of support. Only 16% of Conservative supporters said they opposed the death penalty outright, so his comment could be interpreted as a signal to his base that he is still on side and is with them on many social issues,” Coletto said.

Support for the death penalty today is nearly identical to where is was in 1978. A Gallup poll that year showed 68% of Canadians supported reinstatement of the death penalty for those convicted of murder.

Abacus polled 1,105 adult Canadians between Jan. 21-24, in a survey of randomly selected adults from an online panel of over 400,000. The margin of error is 2.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.


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