Capital punishment in the United Kingdom was abolished in 1998 but in the wake of numerous terrorist attacks – the latest of which occurred on June 20th in Reading – public calls for its reinstation have resurfaced. Research conducted by us at Redfield & Wilton Strategies in mid-July shows that a majority (51%) of Britons support reinstating the death penalty for those convicted of terrorism.
Only 26% of respondents opposed the reinstatement of the death penalty and 19% neither supported nor opposed.
In particular, we noticed a sharp generational divide over the question with a large majority (59%) of those above the age of 65 supporting the use of capital punishment compared to just 37% of those between the ages of 18 to 24. The UK’s last execution occurred on August 1964 when two men were hanged for the murder of John Alan West, which many older Britons most likely remember.
Moreover, the question pointed to a political divide as we found that those who voted for the Conservative party in the 2019 General Elections were significantly more likely to support reinstating the death penalty for those convicted of terrorism than those who voted for Labour. Indeed, a large majority (62%) of Conservative voters expressed their support for such a policy compared to just 37% of Labour voters.
Earlier this April, a petition was created calling for the death penalty to be reinstated for terrorists, mass murderers, serial rapists, paedophiles and child killers. As of this day, the petition has attracted more than 10,000 signatures, requiring the government to respond to it. To be considered for debate in Parliament, however, the petition must reach 100,000 signatures by October.