Jeff Jacoby

According to a Washington Post-ABC poll released last week, 70 percent of Americans want Dzhokhar Tsarnaev put to death if he is convicted of the Boston Marathon bombing. Support for execution was higher among some respondents (conservatives, the elderly, whites) and lower among others (liberals, young adults, blacks). But no matter how the results were sorted, within every demographic subgroup there was majority support for the death penalty in this case.

That is no anomaly. It is a reminder that despite the well-funded efforts of death-penalty abolitionists, the true level of approval for the death penalty in America remains very high.

If you take your cues from the headlines, you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

Maryland last week became the 18th state without capital punishment when Governor Martin O'Malley, a longtime opponent, signed repeal legislation before a crowd of applauding allies. That came about a year after similar action in Connecticut, where Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed a bill banning executions in April 2012.

Foes of capital punishment foes like to point to such developments as proof of America's ineluctable retreat from the death penalty. News accounts of declining public support for executing murderers have become something of a yearly tradition. Anti-execution activists regularly forecast the coming demise of Death Row.

Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby is an Op-Ed writer for the Boston Globe, a radio political commentator, and a contributing columnist for