LITTLE ROCK — Arkansans overwhelmingly support the death penalty, in contrast to national sentiment, months after the state executed four inmates before a lethal injection drug expired, according to a poll released Tuesday by the University of Arkansas.
The poll came out the same day Arkansas’ highest court halted the planned execution this week of an inmate whose attorneys claim doesn’t understand why he is to be put to death.
Seventy-two percent of respondents in the university’s annual Arkansas Poll said they support the death penalty as punishment for people convicted of murder. Seventeen percent of respondents opposed the death penalty, while 11 percent didn’t know or refused to answer.
Issues & Answers Network, Inc. surveyed 801 Arkansas residents by phone between Oct. 12 and Oct. 22. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Arkansans’ attitudes contrast with national polling that has shown support for capital punishment is at its lowest rate in more than four decades, alongside a steady decline in the use of the death penalty as punishment.
“The average Arkansas voter on this core issue is just different from the average American voter,” said Janine Parry, the director of the poll.
Arkansas had planned to execute Jack Greene on Thursday night, but the state Supreme Court late Tuesday afternoon granted an emergency stay requested by attorneys for the convicted murderer. Greene was sentenced to die for the 1991 death of Sidney Burnett, who was beaten with a can of hominy, stabbed and later shot. Arkansas hasn’t executed anyone since the state put four inmates to death over an eight-day period in April. Arkansas originally planned to put eight inmates to death over an 11-day period, scheduling the executions before its supply of a lethal injection drug expired, but four of the executions were blocked by the courts. Greene’s execution was scheduled after the state obtained a new supply of the drug, midazolam.
April’s executions drew worldwide attention and condemnation from death penalty opponents, as well as objections from pharmaceutical companies who said they didn’t want their drugs used in the executions.
The poll also showed Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s approval rising from 60 percent last year to 62 percent this year. The Republican is running for re-election next year and doesn’t yet face a Democratic opponent, thought a Hot Springs gun range owner is exploring challenging Hutchinson in the GOP primary. Sixteen percent of respondents disapproved of Hutchinson’s performance.
Forty-seven percent of respondents approved of President Donald Trump, while 40 percent disapproved. Trump won more than 60 percent of the vote in the presidential election in Arkansas last year.