Poll: Americans Divided on Penalty for Yates

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

If Andrea Yates is convicted of murdering her children, a plurality of Americans believes she should receive the death penalty, but many others split between sentencing her to life in prison or life in a psychiatric hospital.

In a FOX News/Opinion Dynamics poll conducted this week, 30 percent of Americans said Yates should receive the death penalty if convicted of the drowning deaths of her children in Houston last June. The sentences of "life in prison" and "life in a psychiatric hospital" are seen by about equal numbers of respondents (about 22 percent) as the proper penalty. Only 12 percent think Yates should be sentenced to a psychiatric hospital "until she is well."

There are a couple of gender differences in the findings. Men are more likely than women to think the death penalty is the proper sentence (35 percent to 27 percent); in general, men are more supportive than women of the death penalty. More women than men think Yates should be sentenced to "life in a psychiatric hospital" (25 percent of women to 19 percent of men).

Yates has confessed to drowning her children; her attorneys are arguing that she was suffering from mental illness when she committed the acts and she has pleaded innocent by reason of insanity.

Polling was conducted by telephone February 26-27, 2002 in the evenings. The sample is 900 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of ± 3 percentage points.

1. As you may know, Andrea Yates is the woman on trial for killing her children. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, but Yates' attorneys say she is innocent by reason of insanity. If Yates is convicted, what do you think is the appropriate penalty?

2. Recently, a former priest from Boston’s Roman Catholic Archdiocese was sentenced to the maximum of 9 to 10 years for sexual abuse of a 10-year-old boy. Do you think this sentence is too much for the crime, too little, or about the right penalty for the crime?