Reader Opinion on State Laws Permitting the Death Penalty for Rape of a Child:
There have now been 1,650 responses to Friday's poll on state laws allowing the imposition of the death penalty for rape of a child. Let's look at the numbers.

  First, as a matter of policy, a majority of readers oppose such a law. The vote was relatively close, though: 62% oppose the new law and 38% support it. Of course, these numbers are meaningless without a sense of the political views of VC readers. In light of that, here's an earlier poll on the political orientation of VC readers (indicating that VC readers mostly self-identify as moderates on the left or right or as libertarians).

  Second, as a matter of constitutional law, a majority of readers think such a law is constitutional. Specifically, 54% of readers think such laws are constitutional, 20% thinks they are unconstitutional, and 25% doesn't know. Of course, it's not quite clear what this measures, as I didn't specify if I was asking for views on constitutionality that are normative (what the Justices should do), descriptive (what existing law requires), or predictive (what the Justices will do). Still, given the tendency of people to match their view of the constitution to their policy views, the numbers here are pretty interesting.

  Along those lines, it's interesting that the great majority of people who would support the law think it is constitutional, whereas only a minority of those who would oppose the law on policy grounds think it is unconstitutional. It's also noteworthy that 75% of readers who took the poll had a view as to whether the law violated the Eighth Amendment. Only one in four readers didn't have views on whether such a law would violate the Eighth Amendment.