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Support for the death penalty is at a 40 year low, according to new Gallup poll, which might suggest a momentous opinion shift on the issue, except the majority of Americans still want the state to kill certain criminals.

This new Gallup polls suggests some Americans are more forgiving than they once were, as support for the death has fallen dramatically since hitting 80 percent in 1994, to 60 percent in 2013. The last time support for the death penalty was this low among all Americans was in November 1972, which is the year that the Supreme Court effectively placed a moratorium on executions which lasted until 1976. Here's Gallup's graph mapping the history of death penalty support: 

Equally as interesting is the consistently rising opposition at about the same pace. If those trends continue, then the majority of Americans will oppose the death penalty sometime within the next ten or 15 years. But before you assume that public opinion is about to shift on the death penalty like it has on gay marriage and marijuana legalization, Gallup also has this chart which shows that a plurality of Americans are in favor of executing more criminals, with 44 percent saying that it needs to be imposed more often compared to the 22 percent who say it's imposed too often.

But death penalty opposition may spike dramatically if some catastrophe happens after a state goes to some extreme length to execute a prisoner. Prisons are quickly running out of pentobarbital, the Danish drug used in executions, after the drug's parent company banned its sale to U.S. prisons. But some states have chosen to use untested, possibly unconstitutional drug cocktails to go forward with executions when pentobarbital supplies dry up. Ohio announced they would try "compounding" pharmaceuticals for a schedule execution next week. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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