It has been over 50 years since capital punishment was used in the UK, though it was only fully abolished in 1998. But some proponents of the death penalty have called for its reinstatement, particularly in the wake of terrorist attacks that have rocked the UK in recent years. In fact, 54% of Britons said they would support reinstating the death penalty for those convicted of terrorism in the UK. About a quarter (23%) of respondents said they would be opposed.

Britons’ support for reinstating the death penalty for those convicted of terrorism has increased slightly since July 2020, when 51% were in support of such a policy and 26% were in opposition.

The only age group in the most recent poll to not have a majority support bringing back the death penalty for those convicted of terrorism is 18-to-24-year-olds, though a plurality (42%) still expressed support. Conversely, 58% of 35-to-44-year-olds said they would support reinstating the death penalty for convicted terrorists.

There remains a political divide on the question, as a large majority (67%) of 2019 Conservative voters said they would support reinstating the death penalty for those convicted of terrorism, an increase from 62% in July 2020. A much smaller proportion of 2019 Labour voters (45%) said they would support such a policy, though this latest figure is still an increase from 37% in July.

In our latest poll, we also asked Britons if they would support or oppose reinstating the death penalty for those convicted of other serious crimes in the UK. Support for bringing back the death penalty for these convicts was lower than it was for convicted terrorists, but still considerable: 48% of respondents said they would support reinstating the death penalty for those convicted of other serious crimes, while 28% said they would oppose bringing back the practice.

Similar patterns emerge with this question, as respondents aged 18 to 24 are the least supportive (35%) of reinstating the death penalty for individuals convicted of other serious crimes beyond terrorism. Opposition is considerable among the 18 to 24 age group, at 31%, though 31% of respondents aged 65 and over also said they would oppose such a policy. Half (50%) of respondents aged 25 to 34, 35 to 44, and 45 to 54said they would support bringing back the death penalty for those convicted of other serious crimes.

2019 Conservative voters (57%) are again more likely than 2019 Labour voters (42%) to support reinstating the death penalty for such convicts.  

A return to using capital punishment in the UK would be in contravention of Protocol 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and with none of the major political parties pushing for such a move, it looks unlikely to happen at the current moment. However, if the death penalty were to be reinstated for those convicted of terrorism or other serious crimes in the UK, it seems a significant portion of the British public would be supportive.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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