People don’t like Chris Matthews, Americans’ support for capital punishment is falling, and Millennials’ support for Democrats is growing, according to three new polls. (More)

A Tale of Three Polls (Non-Cynical Saturday)

Respondents split on whether it was the best or worst of times, and some said both, according to an 1859 Dickens poll. Alas, the margin of error muted that paradoxical finding, due to sample size and the fact they were fictional characters. But these three polls are real:

“Let Me Finish”

That’s how Chris Matthews introduces the final segment of each Hardball episode. It’s also what almost every Hardball guest probably thinks as he barrages them with questions that leave no pauses for answers. That may be why a Q Scores survey of over 1800 viewers found Matthews the least likeable news host on TV.

The most likeable host was CBS’s Scott Pelley, with a score of 19. Network hosts scored better than cable hosts, and anchors higher than talk format hosts. The average for all 61 hosts in the survey was 14. Rachel Maddow topped MSNBC’s hosts with a 13. Bill O’Reilly led Fox News with a 10.

And Chris Matthews scored a 6.

Are you surprised? I mean, does that really surprise anyone? Hold on, let me finish. Wouldn’t pretty much everyone agree that Matthews is as likeable as a hungry badger in your sleeping bag? I’m kidding, but really, are you surprised? I’m not. Are you? Are you really? Sorry, we have to go to a break.

“The GOP may find itself in an increasingly weak position”

That’s the conclusion of a recent Gallup poll of younger voters:

Young adults – those between the ages of 18 and 29 – have typically aligned themselves with the Democratic Party, but they have become substantially more likely to do so since 2006.

From 1993 to 2003, 47% of 18- to 29-year-olds, on average, identified as Democrats or said they were independents but leaned to the Democratic Party, while 42% were Republicans or Republican leaners. That time span included two years in which young adults tilted Republican, 1994 and 1995, when Republicans won control of Congress. Since 2006, the average gap in favor of the Democratic Party among young adults has been 18 percentage points, 54% to 36%.

That’s partly demographic, as younger adults are more diverse. But young whites are also trending toward Democrats:

But young adults are not more Democratic solely because they are more racially diverse. In recent years, young white adults, who previously aligned more with the Republican Party, have shifted Democratic. From 1995 to 2005, young whites consistently identified as or leaned Republican rather than Democratic, by an average of eight points. Since 2006, whites aged 18 to 29 have shown at least a slight Democratic preference in all but one year, with an average advantage of three points.

And that spells trouble for the GOP:

To a large extent, this reflects the increasing racial and ethnic diversity of the U.S. population, particularly among the youngest generations of Americans. And that growing diversity creates challenges for the Republican Party, given nonwhites’ consistent and strong support for the Democratic Party. To some degree, Republicans have been able to offset the growing diversity and win elections by increasing their support among Americans aged 30 and older, particularly white senior citizens. But the GOP may find itself in an increasingly weak position against the Democrats unless it can broaden its appeal to younger and nonwhite Americans.

But before you celebrate, remember that getting young voters to the polls in midterms is still a challenge.

“It’s a matter of principle”

A majority of Americans still support capital punishment, but that majority is steadily shrinking, according to a new Pew Poll:

Public support for capital punishment has ebbed and flowed over time, as indicated by polls going all the way back to the 1930s. But it has been gradually ticking downward for the past two decades, since Pew Research began collecting survey data on this issue.1 Since 1996, the margin between those who favor the death penalty and those who oppose it has narrowed from a 60-point gap (78% favor vs. 18% oppose) to an 18-point difference in 2013 (55% favor vs. 37% oppose).

Surprisingly, even a majority of Catholics support the death penalty, although the Catechism does not:

2267 […]

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”

Pew also found that support for the death penalty is a white thing:

The differences among religious groups reflect the overall racial and ethnic picture on support for capital punishment. Twice as many white Americans favor the death penalty as oppose it (63% vs. 30%). Among black adults, the balance of opinion is reversed: 55% oppose capital punishment, while 36% support it. The margin is narrower among Hispanics, but more oppose the death penalty (50%) than support it (40%).

That’s hardly surprising, given the persistent racial bias in death sentences:

According to a recent study by Professor Katherine Beckett of the University of Washington, jurors in Washington are three times more likely to recommend a death sentence for a black defendant than for a white defendant in a similar case. The disparity in sentencing occurred despite the fact that prosecutors were slightly more likely to seek the death penalty against white defendants.
Even though blacks and whites are murder victims in nearly equal numbers of crimes, [a 2003 Amnesty report found that] 80% of people executed since the death penalty was reinstated have been executed for murders involving white victims.

The steady decline in support for capital punishment has Hot Air’s Allahpundit flummoxed:

The magic-bullet explanation is that it’s a reaction to the steep decline in violent crime in America since the early 1990s. The safer people feel, the less urgent their impulse to punish society’s worst offenders severely. (Tangentially, that may also help explain why support for prison reform is growing within both parties.) But the crime rate can’t explain everything; to see why, read this post from last year flagging a pair of graphs from Gallup showing that trends in how safe people feel haven’t steadily declined over time. They’re down from where they were in the 90s, but they’re actually up from where they were a few years ago – and yet support for the death penalty continues to plummet. There must be more happening here.

He notes the growing diversity of Americans, and the racial disparity in support for capital punishment. He also notes that young Christians are less likely to back the death penalty:

A different poll taken in January of this year found something similar happening among Christians specifically. When asked if the government should have the option to execute the worst criminals, 42 percent of Christian baby boomers said yes — but just 32 percent of Christians born between 1980 and 2000 agreed. Whether this is now a fixed star in millennials’ liberal-ish ideology or a simple reaction to the fact that they’ve grown up in a safer America, which could change if/when the crime rate does, is obviously unclear. That’s the evergreen question mark with this group ever since Obama was elected. How many screw-ups by the Democratic Party would it take for them to sour on (some) leftist positions? Or are they dyed-in-the-wool Democrats/left-wing independents for life, having assumed that identity in their formative years? Consider it a subset of the question of whether the U.S. really is irretrievably on a European track, as Europe’s managed to keep its taboo against capital punishment intact despite decades of political change.

Oh the horror … not executing people … just like in Europe!

One other interesting footnote to the Pew data: The numbers on capital punishment don’t wax and wane as a reaction to the president’s party affiliation. The rap on Democrats when I was a kid was that they were soft on crime, which would lead you to expect a rise in support for the death penalty whenever a Democrat lands in the White House.

Umm, why, exactly? Whatever….

That’s not what’s happened. Support dropped throughout most of Clinton’s presidency, bounced up slightly after 9/11 before dropping some more during Bush’s terms, and then bounced up slightly after O was elected before continuing to drop. Which makes sense: According to Gallup’s poll last fall, it’s Democrats and independents who have shifted the most towards opposing capital punishment over the past 25 years. It’s a matter of principle, not a purely partisan thing.

Why yes, it is a matter of principle … and when was the last time you saw a conservative write that about progressives?


Happy Saturday!