Americans give thumbs down to Bergdahl deal
A new USA Today/Pew poll of 1004 adults shows 43% believing the deal that brought Bowe Bergdahl home was the wrong thing to do. 36% think it was the right thing..
Among vbterans polled on the matter, only 6% said it was the right thing while 68% said it was wrong.
Indeed, most Americans say they believe the United States has a responsibility to bring a captive American soldier home, regardless of the circumstances: 56% say Bergdahl was entitled to those efforts even though he left his post in 2009; 29% say he wasn't.
On one key point in the political controversy, the public backs Congress. By 2-1, Americans say the president should be required to inform Congress before such transfers.
A law passed by Congress last year requires the secretary of Defense to do exactly that, at least 30 days before transferring detainees out of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Obama signed that bill into law despite arguing that the notification provision was unconstitutional because it hindered his ability "to act swiftly in conducting negotiations with foreign countries regarding the circumstances of detainee transfers."
The poll showed that 30% agree the president should have that flexibility, and 64% say the president should be required to inform Congress first. There's a significant partisan split: A slight majority of Democrats give deference to the president, while Republicans overwhelmingly side with Congress.
That's "super-interesting" to Jon Rogowski, a professor at the University of Washington in St. Louis who studies public opinion on presidential power.
"I think the numbers here probably show what happens when these actions are politicized," he said "In general, the public does like strong presidents. They like presidents to have some flexibility and dexterity in addressing these high-stakes issues that are really sensitive."
The partisan breakdown is about what you'd expect:
Reactions to the Bergdahl case are deeply divided along partisan lines. Fully 71% of Republicans think the prisoner exchange was the wrong thing to do, while just 16% say it was the right thing to do. Democrats, by more than two-to-one (55% to 24%), have a positive opinion of the agreement.
Republicans, particularly conservative Republicans, also are far less likely than Democrats to say that the U.S. was obligated to do all it could to secure Bergdahl’s freedom.
A majority of Democrats (75%) says the U.S. has a responsibility to return captive soldiers, no matter what the circumstances.
Republicans are more divided: 48% say that because Bergdahl left his post the U.S. was not obligated to do all it could to secure his return, while 39% say the U.S. was responsible for doing all it could to free him. Among conservative Republicans, 56% say the U.S. was not obligated to do all it could to secure his return because he left his post.
In general, there is more public support for the U.S. taking all measures to secure the release for captured U.S. soldiers, regardless of the circumstances, than there is for the Bergdahl prisoner exchange. In part, this reflects the fact that some who support making every effort to free a captive U.S. soldier in general have doubts about the specifics of the Bergdahl deal. Among those who say the U.S. has a responsibility to do all it can to return an American captive soldier, roughly a quarter (27%) say the Bergdahl exchange itself was the wrong thing to do.
A majority of Democrats - 55% support the president. Not an overwhelming majority by any means. Democratic lawmakers are out on a limb with a large slice of their own party. Most have backed the president.
Interestingly, the same number of people are mad at Bergdahl as those who sympathize with him - 15%. That's not a large number, suggesting that Bergdahl is not so much the issue here, but rather the swap for terrorists is what has Americans upset.
Another interesting note: 23% is a high number for "no opinion." I guess if the late night talk show comics don't make jokes about it, it's just not news.