Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris said on Thursday she wants to stop executions at the federal level, drawing further attention to the issue of capital punishment the same week that California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a moratorium on the death penalty.
That will draw a stark contrast on the campaign trail with President Donald Trump, who once took out a full-page ad calling for the death penalty in a New York case, has repeatedly praised the use of executions in foreign countries and lamented Newsom’s moratorium.
But that doesn’t mean it’s only a Democratic idea. Opposition to the death penalty, once considered a liberal rallying cry, has become a bipartisan concern as a growing number of conservatives around the country have adopted it.
Beyond politicians, religious leaders have embraced the less punitive angle on crime as well. Pope Francis declared last August that he believes the death penalty is wrong in all cases. And Cox notes that the Southern Baptist Convention has begun talking more about how to apply pro-life values to issues such as racial justice in the U.S.
Even people who still support the death penalty are less fervent about it now, said Phoebe Ellsworth, a law and psychology professor at University of Michigan who has studied the issue.
“It used to be that people who supported the death penalty would always check strongly agree or very much approve of it. Now, even the supporters are closer to the middle than they used to be. Those extreme values aren’t being endorsed anymore,” she says.
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