Good news today for supporters of Proposition 34, the initiative that would end executions in California and see the sentences of the state's 725 death row inmates automatically commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

According to a Field Poll released this morning, for first time, more likely voters are in favor repealing death penalty than are opposed to it–by a margin of 45% to 38%.

The folks at Field Research Corporation say Yes on 34 has gained real traction with their argument–no, not that capital punishment is morally reprehensible, or that many death row inmates are ultimately found innocent on appeal (like the 141 convicts sentenced to death, that have been exonerated since 1973)…

The argument that's finally gotten Californians motivated about repealing the death penalty this election is… its cost to taxpayers.

According to Field,

One of the factors propelling the increase in support of the initiative relates to the growing perception that the death penalty is more expensive to administer than housing a person in prison for life. When asked about this in the current survey, 53% of likely voters now say the death penalty is more expensive than life in prison, while 31% think it is more expensive to house a convicted felon for life. This represents a significant change in voter opinion…A September 2011 Field Poll found slightly more believing life in prison was more expensive than the death penalty (43% to 41%), while in 1989 greater than a two to one majority felt this way (54% to 26%).

That belief, that the death penalty is more expensive than the alternative, is backed up the state's legislative analyst who estimates the passage of Prop 34 would save the state $100 million the first few years after its passage, and about $130 million thereafter in costs are related to “murder trials, appellate litigation, and state corrections.”

Another reason the proposition may be winning in the polls is because backers of the measure, like the ACLU and Amnesty International, have raised about $7 million, compared to the paltry $359,900 the opposition has brought in.

Interestingly, some of the largest donors to No on 34 are here in Los Angeles. The Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs and the Los Angeles Police Protective League have donated $20,000 and $10,000 respectively.

Both camps will undoubtedly be making a push to win over undecided voters in the remaining days before the election. Even with the recent surge of support for Proposition 34, 17%–nearly one in five voters–remain on the fence, according the Field Poll.

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