The number of Russians who support the death penalty’s return has climbed to almost 50%, according to the independent Levada Center pollster’s survey released Thursday.
While the death penalty remains enshrined in Russian law, the Kremlin placed a moratorium on its use in 1996 as a condition of Council of Europe membership. Debates on restoring the death penalty have resurfaced following last month’s murder of a schoolgirl in southern Russia.
Forty-nine percent of Russian respondents would like to see the return of the death penalty, according to Levada’s results, an increase from 44% in 2017.
In 2002, when the pollster first asked the question, 68% of Russian respondents had said they would like to re-establish capital punishment.
“When I discuss this in focus groups, people kept saying that we can be wrongly convicted and that’s why it’s dangerous to return [capital] punishment,” Levada sociologist Denis Volkov told the RBC news website of capital punishment’s decline in popularity since the early 2000s.
Among the death penalty’s supporters in 2019, 33% said they would like to see Russia implement capital punishment the way it had been used in the 1990s. The other 16% favored expanding the death penalty.
According to Levada, 21% of respondents said the moratorium should remain in place, while 19% said the death penalty should be abolished.
Russians aged over 55 were the most avid supporters of capital punishment at 55%. Support declined proportionately among younger age groups.
Levada conducted the survey among 1,616 respondents across 50 Russian regions on Oct. 24-30.