On the Question of Torture, Americans Are Not United

Is torture ever justified? Americans do not appear to have come to a broad consensus on that timely question in the war on terror.

In the Oct. 12-24 Pew Research Center poll, 15 percent of respondents said that the use of torture against suspected terrorists in order to gain important information can often be justified, while 31 percent said it is sometimes justified, 17 percent said it is rarely justified and 32 percent said it’s never justified. Pew asked the question in July 2004 and March 2005 with similar results.

Results from a Nov. 10-11 PSRA/Newsweek poll were similar. Seventeen percent said that the use of torture against suspected terrorists in order to gain important information can often be justified. Twenty-seven percent said it sometimes could, 18 percent said rarely and 33 percent said torture is never justified.

In the next question, 58 percent said they would support the use of torture by U.S. military or intelligence personnel if it might lead to the prevention of a major terrorist attack. Thirty-five percent said they would not.

Good News From Iraq? In a Nov. 8-13 Harris Interactive poll, 68 percent said that overall life for Iraqis was getting better--unchanged from the 68 percent who said so in June. In another question, 62 percent said that overall infrastructure was getting better for Iraqis, also unchanged from June.

In the meantime, 52 percent said that security for Iraq civilians was getting better, while 43 percent said it was not. In June, those responses were 56 percent and 38 percent, respectively.

China Rising. A Harris Interactive poll taken in mid-October found much more concern among Americans about China than about India, Russia or Japan.

Forty-five percent said it was in the best interests of the U.S. for Russia to grow and prosper; 31 percent said we should be concerned about them. Respondents were split on those questions when asked about India: 39 percent and 35 percent, respectively.

But when asked about China, only 24 percent said we should want China to grow and prosper, compared to 58 percent who said we should be concerned about that prospect.

In another question, 70 percent said China would be a superpower in 10 years. By contrast, 41 percent felt that way about Japan, 20 percent felt so about India and 15 percent believed that about Russia.

And the poll found that a majority--52 percent--were “extremely” or “very” concerned about China becoming stronger than the U.S. militarily in 10 years. Another 21 percent said they were concerned about the prospect, while 27 percent said they were “somewhat” or “not at all” concerned.

In the meantime, an Oct. 12-13 Pew Research Center poll found that 16 percent described China as an adversary, 45 percent as a serious problem but not an adversary, and 30 percent as not much of a problem. Those numbers have been pretty consistent in eight other askings of the question since 1997.

Tracking Trade. With Iraq and terrorism at the top of the public’s list of international concerns, trade has largely disappeared from the public’s radar screen. Twenty-two percent in a Pew Research Center 1993 survey mentioned it, compared to 16 percent in 1997, 9 percent in 2001, and 6 percent in Pew’s new October survey.

Like or Dislike? A Nov. 11-13 Gallup/ CNN/USA Today poll asked how much respondents liked or disliked President Bush. Then, those who disliked him were asked whether they hated Bush or disliked but didn’t hate him.

Six percent were willing to admit that they hated the president, up from 2 percent in 2003. Twenty-seven percent in the new poll said they disliked him a lot.

Family Dinner Hour: Still Alive. In its late October-early November poll, CBS News found that 63 percent of people in households with kids under 18 eat dinner together five or more nights a week. In 1990, 67 percent gave that response. Seven percent in both years said they ate no meals together each week. Eighteen percent in 2005, compared to 16 percent today, eat together three to four nights a week.

A Nation of Couch Potatoes--Not? In a late October-early November poll, CBS News updated a question the organization had asked about regular exercise in 1993. That year, 23 percent of those surveyed said they exercised 30 minutes or more every day. In the new poll, it’s 26 percent. Men were more likely than women to say they exercised this much every day (32 percent to 21 percent). Fifteen percent--down from 24 percent in 1993--said they exercised less often than a few times a month or never.

The Price of a Stamp. When told by Fox News/Opinion Dynamics pollsters in a Nov. 8-9 poll that the price of a first-class stamp would rise from 37 to 39 cents in January, 16 percent said this was a bargain, 34 percent a good value, and 42 percent a ripoff.

Karlyn H. Bowman is a resident fellow at AEI.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Karlyn
Bowman

What's new on AEI

Holder will regret his refusal to obey the Constitution
image 'Flood Wall Street' climate protesters take aim at their corporate allies
image 3 opportunities for better US-India defense ties
image Is Nicolás Maduro Latin America's new man at the United Nations?
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 29
    MON
  • 30
    TUE
  • 01
    WED
  • 02
    THU
  • 03
    FRI
Thursday, October 02, 2014 | 9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
Campbell Brown talks teacher tenure

We welcome you to join us as Brown shares her perspective on the role of the courts in seeking educational justice and advocating for continued reform.

Event Registration is Closed
Friday, October 03, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Harnessing the power of markets to tackle global poverty: A conversation with Jacqueline Novogratz

AEI welcomes you to this Philanthropic Freedom Project event, in which Novogratz will describe her work investing in early-stage enterprises, what she has learned at the helm of Acumen, and the role entrepreneurship can play in the fight against global poverty.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled today.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.