Canadians Conflicted When Assessing the Death Penalty

Half of respondents prefer life imprisonment without the possibility of parole as the punishment for convicted murderers.

Vancouver, BC [May 14. 2021] – The views of Canadians on capital punishment did not go through a severe fluctuation over the past year, a new Research Co. poll has found.

In the online survey of a representative national sample, 50% of Canadians (-1 since a similar Research Co. survey conducted in February 2020) support reinstating the death penalty for murder in Canada, while 36% (+1) are opposed and 13% are undecided.

Support for the return of capital punishment is highest among men (57%), Canadians aged 55 and over (also 57%) and Albertans (56%).

Canadians who voted for the Conservative Party in the 2019 federal election are more likely to endorse the death penalty (66%) than those who cast ballots for the Liberal Party (50%) or the New Democratic Party (NDP) (43%).

When asked about their personal impressions about the death penalty, three-in-ten Canadians (29%) believe it is never appropriate—including 32% of women, 34% of those aged 18-to-34 and 34% of Ontarians.

Conversely, half of Canadians (51%) think the death penalty is sometimes appropriate, while 10% consider it always appropriate.

More than half of Canadians who support the return of the death penalty believe it would serve as a deterrent for potential murderers (53%), think it fits the crime if a convicted murderer has taken a life (52%) and say it would save taxpayers money and the costs associated with having murderers in prison (also 52%). 

Fewer supporters of capital punishment also think it would provide closure to the families of murder victims (47%) and that murderers cannot be rehabilitated (32%).

Two thirds of Canadians who oppose the reinstatement of the death penalty in the country (66%) are preoccupied with the possibility of a person being wrongly convicted and then executed.

Some opponents of capital punishment also believe it is wrong to take the murderer’s own life as punishment (50%), that the death penalty would not serve as a deterrent for potential murderers (47%), that murderers should do their time in prison, as indicated by a judge (42%) and that murderers can be rehabilitated (20%).

When Canadians are asked about their preferred punishment for convicted murderers in the country, half of respondents (51%) select life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, while one third (34%) gravitate towards the death penalty.

“Canadians appear to be fully aware of the ramifications that a possible return of capital punishment would bring,” says Mario Canseco, President of Research Co. “While half are supportive of reinstating the death penalty, significantly fewer believe it would ultimately be the most suitable way to deal with murder convictions.”


Results are based on an online study conducted from May 7 to May 9, 2021, among 1,000 Canadian adults. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error—which measures sample variability—is +/- 3.1 percentage points, nineteen times out of twenty.

Find our data tables here and download the press release here. 

For more information on this poll, please contact:

Mario Canseco, President, Research Co.