Eight in 10 residents back death penalty: Reach survey

Randomly selected respondents in phone poll support it for violent crimes

An overwhelming majority of people here support the death penalty and do not want it to be done away with, a survey by government feedback unit Reach found.

They also see it as an important deterrent against serious crimes.

These findings come amid ongoing global debate on whether the death penalty should be abolished.

The survey of 1,160 randomly selected respondents found that 80 per cent "generally supported" the death penalty.

Last month, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan pushed back against calls for all countries to do away with capital punishment on the sidelines of a United Nations General Assembly meeting.

In a statement yesterday, Reach said eight in 10 Singapore residents polled in the telephone survey said the death penalty should be retained.

One in 10 said they wanted the punishment to be abolished, while the remaining respondents did not give a definitive answer or did not wish to answer.

The survey, done between June 13 and 17, also found that graduates were more likely to support the death penalty than those with below secondary education.

"There was greater support for the death penalty among the higher educated," said Reach.

Respondents were also asked if they support or oppose the death penalty "in general".

The survey of 1,160 randomly selected respondents found that 80 per cent "generally supported" the death penalty.

Among them, more than half said they supported it outright, while 23 per cent said "it depends".

Another 13 per cent said they were opposed to it.

A majority, or 82 per cent of those polled, also said they agreed or strongly agreed that the death penalty is an important deterrent that has helped to keep Singapore safe from serious crimes.

Among respondents, there was greater support for the punishment to be meted out for violent crimes such as murder, using a firearm, and arms trafficking, compared to drug trafficking.

More than 80 per cent said it should be the maximum punishment for those convicted of murder. In comparison, 67 per cent said it should be the maximum punishment for those guilty of drug trafficking.

Over the three years from 2013 to 2015, six people were hanged in Singapore, five of them for drug offences and one for murder.

The Reach survey also found that close to two-thirds of respondents believed there were enough safeguards in place to ensure no one was wrongly sentenced to death.

But a minority, 6 per cent, did not agree.

Reach said that the people surveyed in the computer-assisted telephone interview were "not demographically representative of the national population by gender, race or age", but the results were "weighted accordingly to ensure representativeness".

Capital punishment is mandatory for offences that include first-degree murder, kidnapping and drug trafficking above a certain quantity.

In 2012, Parliament made significant changes to the Penal Code and the Misuse of Drugs Act, doing away with the mandatory death penalty for some crimes and giving the judge discretion during sentencing.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 07, 2016, with the headline 'Eight in 10 residents back death penalty: Reach survey'. Print Edition | Subscribe