Nation rallies behind the gallows

Mainichi Shimbun, Sunday 28 November 1999

A record 79 percent of the population supports the death penalty, according to a survey released on Saturday by the Prime Minister's Office.

Growing support for capital punishment is attributable to a sharp increase in the number of brutal crimes in recent years, including the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system allegedly perpetrated by the AUM Shinrikyo cult in 1995, observers say.

The office surveyed 5,000 men and women across the country aged 20 or over about their views on capital punishment. The response rate was 72 percent.

According to the results, 79.3 percent of respondents said they support the death penalty, up 5.5 percentage points from the previous survey conducted in 1994. It is the highest figure since the Prime Minister's Office started surveys on public sentiment regarding the death penalty in 1956.

Only 8.8 percent said that capital punishment should be abolished, a sharp decrease of 4.8 points from the previous poll.

As to the reasons why the death penalty is justified, 49.3 percent said that those who commit brutal crimes should pay for their misdeeds by execution, and 48.6 percent said that capital punishment is necessary to console the bereaved families of the victims of violent crimes. Furthermore, 48.2 percent expressed fear that brutal crimes would increase if the death penalty were abolished.

Those opposed to the death penalty said that even the state should not be allowed to kill anybody.