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Australians Divided Over Hanging Of Van Nguyen

Last night (November 30), just two days before the scheduled execution of Australian citizen Van Nguyen in Singapore , 47% of Australians agreed Van Nguyen’s death penalty should be carried out, 46% said it should not and 7% were undecided, according to the latest Morgan Poll.

People surveyed were asked:

•  In your opinion, should the penalty for murder be death or imprisonment?

•  Where the penalty for murder is imprisonment — should it be for life — or should the judge fix the number of years, depending on the evidence?

•  In Malaysia , Sri Lanka , Indonesia , Singapore and some other countries, the penalty for drug trafficking is death . If an Australian is convicted of trafficking drugs in another country and sentenced to death, in your opinion, should the penalty be carried out or not ?

•  As you may know, convicted drug smuggler, Van Nguyen , is to be hanged in Singapore on Friday. Do you think the death penalty should be carried out or not ?

Only 27% of Australians believed the penalty for murder should be death - this is the lowest ever recorded and down 26% since August 1995. Sixty-six percent of Australians said imprisonment and 7% couldn’t say.

Where the penalty for murder is imprisonment, 49% of Australians (down 11% since 1995) said imprisonment should be for life, 48% said the Judge should fix the number of years, and 3% were undecided.

Fifty-seven percent of Australians believe that if an Australian is convicted of trafficking drugs and sentenced to death in another country where the death penalty applies, the death penalty should be carried out, while 36% believe it should not be carried out and 7% are undecided.

However, Australians were divided on whether or not the death penalty should be carried out in the case of convicted drug smuggler Van Nguyen, with 47% believing it should, 46% believing is should not and 7% unable to say.

Gary Morgan Says:

“Tomorrow’s scheduled execution of Van Nguyen comes at a time when Australian opposition to the death penalty for murder is at its highest ever recorded (Roy Morgan began polling this issue in 1947). Support for the death penalty has collapsed.

“Although Australians are divided on the Van Nguyen case, the strength of opinion against the death penalty which has now emerged, suggests that if the Federal Government does not explore all avenues to prevent this hanging, including such things as extradition back to Australia, there could be a serious backlash”.

Those against the death penalty being carried out on Australians convicted of drug-smuggling overseas were asked if they had any comments or reasons. A typical response was: “ Killing human beings is inhumane in any situation, I don’t think any action or any crime warrants it ”, another argued: “ If they are Australian, they should be tried under Australian law ”, another respondent said: “ I think the death penalty is not a proper sanction in terms of punishing people — the chances of people being wrongly convicted outweighs the punishment. I believe in the possibility of rehabilitation ”.

Of those who believe the death penalty should be carried out on Australians convicted of trafficking drugs and sentenced to death, many suggested it was: “Because of all the misery these people cause to Australian families, there are plenty of deaths from heroin in Australia that don’t make the papers ” and “ My opinion of drug traffickers is that they are indirect murderers, what he was doing was feeding off the weaknesses of other people and ultimately causing their death ”. Another common line of argument suggests: “ It’s their country, and if they choose to make those rules we should be prepared to travel under those rules ” and “ Because they’re sovereign nations and we can’t go in and demand that they change their laws — we can protest and make our views known but we can’t tell them what to do ”.

When asked specifically whether Van Nguyen’s death penalty should be carried out, those who believe it should argue that: “ He knew the penalties before he left, he went in with his eyes open, he knew the risks and rewards and chose the rewards ”, “ It’s Singapore’s rules so tough luck mate ” and “ He knew the laws of the country, I feel desperately sorry for his Mother, but he knew what he was doing and shouldn’t have done it ”. Some respondents believed the sentence should be carried out because “ Once the heroin got back to Australia it could have killed countless people here ” and “ Because he’s a bloody drug smuggler and he’ll kill our children ”. Others argued “ I don’t think the government of that country should make an exception for Australia ” and “ I would rather not see him hang for that offence but I don’t think we have got any right to tell the people in Singapore how to run their country ”.

Of particular interest are the reasons given by those people who support the death penalty for Australians overseas in general , but think Van Nguyen’s death penalty should not be carried out , some believed that: “ The punishment does not fit the crime ”, “ The punishment is too severe ”, “ Because he cooperated with everyone and has no other record, but he should still be punished ” and “ It’s a bit harsh — I don’t think he committed a big enough crime that he deserves to die ”. Some respondents said “ I have seen the effect on the family who it has happened to and it caused their lives to be turned into turmoil, and the death penalty is not the answer ” and “ Mainly because of his family  . Other respondents stated that they “ Don’t like the means of killing him — hanging is too barbaric, lethal injection would be better ” and “ Because hanging is a barbaric act ”.

This special telephone Morgan Poll was conducted on the evening of Wednesday November 30, 2005, with an Australia-wide cross section of 654 respondents aged 14 and over.

 

For further information:

Gary Morgan :   Office (03) 9224 5213   Mobile 0411 129 094   Home (03) 9419 3242

Michele Levine :   Office (03) 9224 5215   Mobile 0411 129 093   Home (03) 9817 3066

 

Death Penalty Or Imprisonment For Murder

Respondents were first asked: “Next about the penalty for murder . In your opinion, should the penalty for murder be death or imprisonment ?”

 
All Australians*
 
Dec
‘47
Feb
‘53
Apr
‘62
Nov
‘75
Oct
‘80
Jan
‘86
Jul
‘86
Jul
‘87
Feb
‘89
Feb
‘90
Jun
‘90
May
‘92
May
‘93
Aug
‘95
Nov
‘05
 

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Death Penalty

67

68

53

40

43

43

44

49

52

53

51

46

54

53

27

Imprisonment

24

24

37

43

40

41

40

37

34

35

35

39

36

36

66

Can’t say

9

8

10

17

17

16

16

14

14

12

14

15

10

11

7

Total

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

* Samples for 1947, 1953 and 1962 were electors aged 21 and over, from 1975 onwards the sample was all Australians aged 14 and over.

Life Imprisonment or Judge To Fix Term

Respondents were then asked: “Where the penalty for murder is imprisonment — should it be for life — or should the judge fix the number of years, depending on the evidence?”

 
All Australians 14+
 
Nov
‘75
Oct
‘80
Jan
‘86
Jul
‘86
Jul
‘87
Feb
‘89
Jun
‘90
May
‘92
May
‘93
Aug
‘95
Nov
‘05
 

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Life

37

43

51

54

53

52

59

54

58

60

49

Judge to fix number of years

55

49

42

46

43

43

37

43

39

37

48

Can’t say

8

8

7

-

4

5

4

3

3

3

3

Total

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

 

Death Penalty For Drug Trafficking?

Respondents were then asked: “In Malaysia , Sri Lanka , Indonesia , Singapore and some other countries, the penalty for drug trafficking is death . If an Australian is convicted of trafficking drugs in another country and sentenced to death, in your opinion, should the penalty be carried out or not ?”*

 
All Australians 14+
 
Jan ‘86
Jul ‘86
Jul ‘87
Feb ‘89
Jun ‘90
May ‘92
May ‘93
Aug ‘95
Nov ‘05
 

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Death Penalty should be carried out

73

80

80

79

75

76

70

66

57

Death Penalty should notbe carried out

21

16

17

17

21

19

26

29

36

Can’t say

6

4

3

4

4

5

4

5

7

Total

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

* This question initially referred to Malaysia only. Sri Lanka was added in 1989 and Indonesia and Singapore were added in 2005. 

Death Penalty For Drug Trafficking & Van Nguyen

Respondents were then asked: “As you may know, convicted drug smuggler, Van Nguyen , is to be hanged in Singapore on Friday. Do you think the death penalty should be carried out or not ?”

Men are more likely than women to believe that Van Nguyen’s death penalty should be carried out as are those aged 25 to 49. Respondents aged 14 to 17 are most likely to believe that Van Nguyen’s sentence should not be carried out.

 
All Australians 14+
Analysis by Sex &Age
 
November 30, 2005
Men
Women
14-17
18-24
25-34
35-49
50+
 

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Van Nguyen’s Death Penaltyshould be carried out

47

54

40

17

38

53

55

47

Van Nguyen’s Death Penaltyshould not be carried out

46

41

50

77

55

39

38

46

Can’t say

7

5

10

6

7

8

7

7

Total

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

# Sample sizes less than 50 should be treated with caution

Those living in country areas are more likely to believe that Van Nguyen’s death penalty should be carried out than those living in metropolitan areas. West Australians, South Australians and Northern Territorians are most likely to want to say Van Nguyen’s sentence should be carried out. Victorians are the most likely to say Van Nguyen’s death penalty should not be carried out.

 
All Australians 14+
Analysis by Region and State
 
November 30, 2005
Metro
Country
NSW
Vic
Qld
SA/NT
WA
Tas
 

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Van Nguyen’s Death Penaltyshould be carried out

47

46

49

46

45

46

50

54

47

Van Nguyen’s Death Penaltyshould not be carried out

46

48

41

45

52

44

41

41

45

Can’t say

7

6

10

9

3

10

9

5

8

Total

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

L-NP and Family First voters are most likely to believe Van Nguyen’s sentence should be carried out. Greens and Democrat voters are most likely to say that Van Nguyen’s death penalty should not be carried out.

 
All Australians 14+
Analysis by Voting Intention
 
Aust
The
Family
Ind /
No
 
November 30, 2005
L-NP
ALP
Dem.#
Greens
First#
Other#
Answer*
 

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Van Nguyen’s Death Penaltyshould be carried out

47

56

41

47

37

51

64

39

Van Nguyen’s Death Penaltyshould not be carried out

46

38

50

53

58

49

28

51

Can’t say

7

6

9

-

5

-

8

10

Total

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

# Sample sizes less than 50 should be treated with caution

*Includes all respondents who were undecided on voting intention, plus those ineligible to vote and those aged 14-17

 

The Morgan Poll is conducted by the ONLY Australian and New Zealand member of the Gallup International Association. No other public opinion poll taken in Australia and New Zealand has this qualification.