While a majority of Americans still favor having a death penalty, support for it has been dropping steadily for years and people are more reluctant to see it used.

At this point 60 percent of Americans favor the death penalty while 37 percent oppose it, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. While that is still a strong level of support, it is a remarkable drop from 1994 when Gallup found support for the death penalty was 80 percent. If the trend continues we could see a majority against the death penalty in the next decade.

Perhaps more important is that fact that while Americans favor the idea of having a death penalty it is no longer their preferred punishment for murderers. The poll found 52 percent would prefer to see convicted murderers face life in prison without the possibility of parole while only 42 percent were prefer using the death penalty.

While the issue hasn’t gotten as much attention as recent advances in LGBT rights or marijuana legalization, it is another example of how the country is moving clearly to the left on social issues, thanks in part to a younger generation that is significantly more liberal.

Photo by Steve Rhoades under Creative Commons license