Public Opinion on Torture, the Iraq War, and Civil Liberties
- Public Opinion on Torture, the Iraq War, and Civil Liberties
New findings from Retro Poll: May 6, 2005
Berkeley - In a series of polls by Retro Poll 72-89 percent of the
American public consistently opposed the use of torture by the U.S.
government. A recent poll by the Gallup organization confirmed these
In a new poll completed May 1st Retro Poll has found that 67.3
percent of those polled knew torture is against U.S. laws and a war
crime. But many people remained unaware that their government is
systematically employing torture. For example, only 32.7 percent had
seen media reports that the U.S. was "rendering" captives, sending
them to be tortured by outlaw governments, whose practices the U.S.
supposedly abhors; and less than half (47.3 percent) knew that the
International Red Cross issued a secret report to the government,
later leaked to the press, that accused the U.S. of systematic use of
torture at Guantanamo. Indeed 58 percent of those questioned believed
that the torture so far exposed is the result of "a few bad apples".
In addition, based upon two sequential polls, about one in three
Americans still believes that Saddam Hussein worked with the Al Qaeda
terror network. This subgroup of Americans opposed withdrawal from
Iraq (57.6 percent to 42.4 percent) although more than half of those
polled by Retro Poll (52 percent), and 57 percent in a CNN poll
released May 3rd, favored a full U.S. withdrawal. Presently neither
the President nor the Democratic Party are calling for an U.S.
timetable for withdrawal.
The same respondents who found terrorism a justification for the Iraq
war also tended to have less critical views on torture. When asked
whether they approve of the appointments of John Negroponte as
National Intelligence Chief and Albert Gonzales as Attorney General
in view of their support for the use of torture, 30 percent of those
who believe Saddam worked with Al Qaeda approved the nominations.
However, only 11 percent of those who knew that Saddam and Al Qaeda
were enemies approved. This is a significant difference (p=. 009 by
Fifty seven percent of the poll sample supported a moratorium on
executions in the U.S. until systematic unfairness in the application
of the death penalty has been addressed, (the same proportion as in a
September, 2004 Retro poll). Opposition to specific intrusions
authorized by the Patriot Act remained strong when detailed. However,
opposition varied from as low as 54 percent against local businesses
and professionals being required to turn over info to the government,
to as high as 86 percent when federal officials are authorized to
"enter your home and investigate you, recording and copying
materials" without telling you. This 32-point gap suggests a failure
to recognize that the Patriot Act is worded so that many provisions
can be arbitrary applied to anyone without cause.
Opposition to lengthy detentions without trial remained strong (75
percent) as did support for international prosecution of war crimes
(73 percent). . The poll reached 205 people in 40 states and has a
margin of error statistic of 5.6-7%.
Contact: Marc Sapir, MD, MPH
Executive Director, Retro Poll
Thurs/Fri 9 a.m.- 5 p.m.: (510) 266-1725
before 8 a.m. and after 7 p.m. (510) 848-3826
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