A majority of Canadians support bringing back the death penalty in a slight increase from the same time last year, according to a new poll.
Survey results released Friday from public opinion research firm Research Co., found 54 per cent of Canadian respondents favoured reinstating capital punishment for murder convictions, with more than 70 per cent of Conservative voters being in favour.
According to Mario Canseco, president of Research Co., support for capital punishment rose three per cent from last year, after three years of remaining “stagnant.”
“What is interesting to me is we have these numbers in a time when nobody’s talking about the death penalty,” Canseco told the Star. “Changes (usually) happen on questions like this when a political party starts talking about things more openly.”
In 2022, 51 per cent of Canadians supported the death penalty. The figure had remained relatively unchanged from 50 per cent in 2021 and 51 per cent in 2020.
Research Co. surveyed roughly 1,000 Canadians across the nation, demographically adjusted to census figures for age, gender and region.
Canseco believes the main factor behind a person’s stance on the issue is their age and political affiliation: “People over 55 are looking at this very differently than younger Canadians, or those who voted for other (non-Conservative) parties,” he said.
In the poll, roughly 59 per cent of Canadians aged 55 or older support the death penalty. About 54 per cent of those between 35 to 54 support capital punishment, while 50 per cent of 18 to 34-year-olds are in favour.
Meanwhile, 71 per cent of Conservative voters favour the death penalty, with the number dropping for the NDP at 49 per cent and the Liberals at 48 per cent.
That’s a eight-point increase among Conservative supporters from 2022, when just 63 per cent were in favour. Meanwhile, NDP and Liberal numbers dipped slightly from 52 per cent and 49 per cent last year, respectively.
“I don’t think this is something (the Conservative party) might necessarily want to talk about,” Canseco said, “however, their base wouldn’t be particularly dissatisfied if Pierre Poilievre were to say ‘we should revisit this issue.’”
Support also differed between provinces, with those in favour being greatest in Alberta at 62 per cent and lowest in Quebec at 43 per cent. According to the poll, 58 per cent of surveyed Ontarians support the death penalty.
Although most Canadians support the idea of capital punishment, they’re less eager when it comes to specific cases, Canseco said. For example, when given the option between sentencing a hypothetical murder convict to life-imprisonment or execution, the majority of respondents chose life-imprisonment.
“Canadians are flirting with the notion of the death penalty — but once we get down to the judiciary issues, they’re not as convinced that that’s the right course of action,” Canseco said.
According to the survey, 25 per cent of respondents believe capital punishment is “never appropriate,” while nine per cent said it’s “always appropriate,” and 58 per cent think the death penalty is “sometimes appropriate.”
Among those opposed to the death penalty, 66 per cent of respondents are mainly concerned about people being falsely convicted and wrongfully executed. On the other side, 57 per cent of supporters argued the death penalty serves as a deterrent to potential murderers.
Canseco couldn’t say what led to the national rise in support for capital punishment — it’s still too early to tell, he said. However, he noted that changes in public perception are linked to large societal events that may introduce new perspectives, for example support for the death penalty rose in the U.K. after Brexit, he said.
For now, the results may represent an opportunity for the Conservative party to talk tougher-on-crime legislation, Canseco said.
“If crime becomes a wedge issue in the next election, this might be something that they think about.”