Poll: Most Back Adult Punishment for Juveniles

May 8, 2001 -- Fifty-five percent of Americans say juveniles convicted of violent crimes should be punished as adults, starting at an average age of 15.

That's older than in one recent case: Lionel Tate, 14, was sentenced as an adult in Florida in March for killing a 6-year-old when he was 12. But it matches the age of Charles Andrew Williams, 15, who is to be tried as an adult for the Santana High School shooting that killed two and injured 13 people on March 5 in Santee, Calif.

This random-sample telephone poll for ABCNEWS.com asked if a juveniles convicted of a violent crime should get the same punishment an adult would receive for that same crime, or a lesser punishment. Fifty-five percent said the same, 34 percent a lesser penalty.

Those who favored punishing juveniles as adults were asked at what age that should begin. The largest group, 27 percent, said 16 years old, and the average response was 15.

Juveniles punished as adults? Yes No May 6 55% 34%

(If yes) Starting at what age? Age 17 13% 16 27 15 22 14 11 13 13 12 and under 8

Average: Age 15

Parents with children ages 12 to 17, the age group in question, are somewhat less likely to favor adult sentencing of juveniles convicted of violent crimes — but a plurality still does.

Juveniles punished as adults? Yes No Have kids 12-17 48% 39% Have kids under 12 54 33 No kids 57 33

Among other groups, lower-income and less-educated Americans are more likely to support punishing juveniles as adults. This poll finds no significant differences based on sex or political party identification.


This ABCNEWS.com survey was conducted by telephone May 2-6, among a random national sample of 1,024 adults. The results have a three-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation was conducted by TNS Intersearch of Horsham, Pa.

Previous ABCNEWS polls can be found in our Poll Vault.