Poll: 59% say torture was justified

An ABC News poll has found that 59% of the American people believe that the enhanced interrogation techniques, heavily criticized in a Senate report, were justified.

That finding is interesting, considering that a plurality of 49% believed that the EIT program amounted to torture.

Six in 10 Americans say the CIA’s treatment of suspected terrorists was justified, more than half think it produced important, unique intelligence – and 52 percent say it was wrong for the Senate Intelligence Committee to issue a report suggesting otherwise.

Those results in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll underscore the public’s sense of risk from the threat of terrorism, and specifically the extent to which majorities support controversial measures to combat it. Indeed just two in 10 flatly rule out torture in future cases.

See PDF with full results, charts and tables here.

A plurality, 49 percent, believes the CIA did in fact torture suspected terrorists; 38 percent think its actions did not amount to torture, with the rest unsure. Regardless, the public by a broad 59-31 percent also says the agency’s interrogation actions were justified.

One reason is that 53 percent think these interrogations produced important information that could not have been obtained any other way. Just 31 percent reject this claim, a focus of the recent debate.

It’s a critical point: Among those who think the CIA interrogations produced unique information, 85 percent say its treatment of suspected terrorists was justified. That drops precipitously, to 28 percent, among those who say the approach did not produce important information.

Other results in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, show substantial misgivings about the Senate committee’s report:

  • Americans by an 11-point margin, 47-36 percent, are more apt to see it as unfair rather than fair in its description of what occurred.
  • The public by 52-43 percent feels more that it was wrong to release the report because it may raise the risk of terrorism by stirring anti-American sentiment – as critics say – than right to release the report in order to expose what happened and prevent a recurrence.
  • Additionally, Americans by 57-34 percent oppose criminal charges against officials who were responsible for the agency’s interrogation activities.

A majority does accept one of the committee’s key criticisms: Fifty-four percent think the CIA did in fact mislead the White House, Congress and the public about its activities. At the same time, four in 10 of them also say the agency was justified in doing so. A net total of just 33 percent think both that the CIA misled, and did so without justification.

Those are pretty decisive margins that make clear that the public doesn't think much at all of the torture report.  The public is able to see through the posturing Democrats, who cite their superior morality for releasing this report.  It's a partisan stinker, and the public senses that.

Even among Democrats, 40% believe that useful intelligence was gleaned from the EIT program.  Why this facet of the program is questioned is a mystery.  If torture didn't "work," it would have been abandoned thousands of years ago as an interrogation technique.  The poll showed that:

... looking ahead, most Americans are unwilling to rule out torture of suspected terrorists. Fifty-eight percent say it can sometimes or even often be justified. Nineteen percent say it can be justified, albeit just rarely, while 20 percent rule it out entirely.

That's 77% who think torture is justified rarely, sometimes, or often.

Americans tend to frown on these exercises in self-flagellation.  Airing our laundry – dirty or otherwise – garners very little support.  Liberals may want to consider that the next time they want to embarrass their political opponents by releasing details of classified programs.

An ABC News poll has found that 59% of the American people believe that the enhanced interrogation techniques, heavily criticized in a Senate report, were justified.

That finding is interesting, considering that a plurality of 49% believed that the EIT program amounted to torture.

Six in 10 Americans say the CIA’s treatment of suspected terrorists was justified, more than half think it produced important, unique intelligence – and 52 percent say it was wrong for the Senate Intelligence Committee to issue a report suggesting otherwise.

Those results in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll underscore the public’s sense of risk from the threat of terrorism, and specifically the extent to which majorities support controversial measures to combat it. Indeed just two in 10 flatly rule out torture in future cases.

See PDF with full results, charts and tables here.

A plurality, 49 percent, believes the CIA did in fact torture suspected terrorists; 38 percent think its actions did not amount to torture, with the rest unsure. Regardless, the public by a broad 59-31 percent also says the agency’s interrogation actions were justified.

One reason is that 53 percent think these interrogations produced important information that could not have been obtained any other way. Just 31 percent reject this claim, a focus of the recent debate.

It’s a critical point: Among those who think the CIA interrogations produced unique information, 85 percent say its treatment of suspected terrorists was justified. That drops precipitously, to 28 percent, among those who say the approach did not produce important information.

Other results in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, show substantial misgivings about the Senate committee’s report:

  • Americans by an 11-point margin, 47-36 percent, are more apt to see it as unfair rather than fair in its description of what occurred.
  • The public by 52-43 percent feels more that it was wrong to release the report because it may raise the risk of terrorism by stirring anti-American sentiment – as critics say – than right to release the report in order to expose what happened and prevent a recurrence.
  • Additionally, Americans by 57-34 percent oppose criminal charges against officials who were responsible for the agency’s interrogation activities.

A majority does accept one of the committee’s key criticisms: Fifty-four percent think the CIA did in fact mislead the White House, Congress and the public about its activities. At the same time, four in 10 of them also say the agency was justified in doing so. A net total of just 33 percent think both that the CIA misled, and did so without justification.

Those are pretty decisive margins that make clear that the public doesn't think much at all of the torture report.  The public is able to see through the posturing Democrats, who cite their superior morality for releasing this report.  It's a partisan stinker, and the public senses that.

Even among Democrats, 40% believe that useful intelligence was gleaned from the EIT program.  Why this facet of the program is questioned is a mystery.  If torture didn't "work," it would have been abandoned thousands of years ago as an interrogation technique.  The poll showed that:

... looking ahead, most Americans are unwilling to rule out torture of suspected terrorists. Fifty-eight percent say it can sometimes or even often be justified. Nineteen percent say it can be justified, albeit just rarely, while 20 percent rule it out entirely.

That's 77% who think torture is justified rarely, sometimes, or often.

Americans tend to frown on these exercises in self-flagellation.  Airing our laundry – dirty or otherwise – garners very little support.  Liberals may want to consider that the next time they want to embarrass their political opponents by releasing details of classified programs.