ABC Poll: Almost 2/3 Say CIA Torture Was Justifed

The media freak-out over the Senate’s CIA torture report is squarely at odds with the opinion of the American public. ABC News has released a new poll this morning that asks about American opinions on torture.


Fifty-nine percent of Americans say “the CIA’s treatment of suspected terrorists was justified” and more than half think “it produced important, unique intelligence.” Only 2 out of 10 Americans reject torture entirely.

Almost half of Americans are aware the treatment is, in fact, torture, while 38% don’t consider the treatment to be torture at all.

One reasons for the support of torturing terrorists is that more than half (53%) say the torture resulted in important information that could not have been obtained any other way.

Gary Langer writes: “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.”

The survey also reveals “substantial” misgivings about the release of the 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.

One point the public does agree with the report about is that the CIA did mislead the public, the White House and Congress about their activities. (Kind of interesting that they still think the torture is justified, eh?) Four out of ten say the CIA was justified in misleading people about the torture.

Basically, the majority doesn’t want to take torture off the table; 58% say it can be sometimes or often justified.

As in most politically sensitive opinions surveys, there are partisan differences on torture. Eighty-two percent of conservative Republicans say the torture was justified while at the other end of the political spectrum, only 38% of liberal Democrats think the same.


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