Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Two-thirds of Americans support torture against terror suspects

Almost two-thirds of Americans see torture as a legitimate tool when interrogating suspected terrorist, a new Reuters/Ipsos survey released on Wednesday showed.

As Reuters noted, the poll was conducted in the wake of the December massacre of 14 people in San Bernardino and major, multi-target attacks in Europe. Donald Trump, the front-runner to become the Republican nominee for president, has frequently said in the last few months that he would reinstate the practice of waterboarding, which President Barack Obama banned, and stated he would "bring back a hell of a lot worse."

He cited the Islamic State group's tactic of decapitations as proof that the United States is dealing with an especially brutal threat and hence should not hesitate to adopt harsh, and in fact illegal, measures. (Trump later backtracked after being confronted with the fact that the military would refuse to break the law, but he made it clear that this was a matter of practicality, not principle.)

While the poll did not ask respondents to explain their definition of torture, its findings suggest a significant measure of support for Trump's view. 

The online poll took place on March 22-28 and asked whether torture could be justified "against suspected to obtain information about terrorism." About a quarter of respondents said it was "often" justified, while 38 percent said it was justified "sometimes" – and only 15 percent said it was never justified.

Reuters noted a difference in attitudes among Republicans and Democrats, with 82 percent of Republicans saying torture is "often" or "sometimes" justified, versus 53 percent of Democrats. The poll also found that about two-thirds of respondents believed a terrorist attack would occur on US soil within the next six months."

Other surveys in recent years showed a level of support at around 50 percent, Reuters said, such as a 2014 Amnesty International poll that found that 45 percent of Americans supported torture.

But this past November, terrorism replaced the economy as the top issue for many Americans in Reuters/Ipsos polls.

According to Reuters, the poll questioned "1,976 people. It has a credibility interval, a measure of accuracy, of 2.5 percentage points for the entire group and about 4 percentage points for both Democrats and Republicans."
practice of waterboarding

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