Thursday, April 30, 2009

NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll: Torture

Photo: Crowd to meet Teddy Roosevelt at Chicago 1912

Two days ago the new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll was released.  The respondents in this poll self identified themselves as: 24% very liberal or somewhat liberal, 35%  moderate, 35% very conservative or somewhat conservative  and 6% were not sure. 

In other words 76% of respondents were not liberal "score-settlers."

This poll asked a few more detailed questions about torture than usual and actually used the word "torture" on a couple of questions. The poll's respondents  agreed that we tortured (53% to 30%). They also indicated (46% to 44%) that "harsh interrogation techniques helped the U.S. by extracting valuable information to stop terrorism."  They were not, however, asked the followup to that question about whether they thought we should continue to use torture. 

On the investigation question the poll only asked about criminal investigations. It did not ask about an independent panel which means that the number of people wanting "investigations" may in fact be just as high as other polls that showed more people in favor of investigations than not. For instance on a USA/Gallup poll in February, 62% of respondents wanted some type of investigations - 38% wanted criminal investigations and 24% wanted an independent panel. This NBC/Wallstreet journal does not give those who may favor an independent panel over criminal investigations the option to choose that method.

36c. Do you think that there should be a criminal investigation about whether torture was committed during the time of the Bush administration or not?

Because the poll didn't ask about "investigations" the WSJ was able to manipulate the discussion about investigations by making this accurate yet also misleading statement in their news story about their poll:

Further, a clear majority, 61%, opposes a criminal investigation into whether torture was committed during the Bush administration. The White House has sent mixed messages on this matter.

I find the last question in this poll  particularly interesting:

36d. Suppose that there is a criminal investigation, please tell me whether the following people should be or should not be included in any criminal investigation about whether torture was committed during these interrogations?


Bush administration lawyers who wrote memos 

53% should - 40% should not -  7% not sure

The Intelligence Agencies who directed the interrogations

53% should - 42% should not - 5% not sure

Dick Cheney

49% should - 44% should not - 7% not sure

George W. Bush

48% should - 44% should not - 5% not sure

The people who conducted the interrogations

43% should - 52% should not - 5% not sure

That's right, if there were  a "criminal" investigation more respondents favored holding our top officials accountable including Dick Cheney and George Bush. The only people they don't want held accountable are the people who conducted the interrogations. While the number of people wanting to have Bush included in a criminal investigation is within the margin of error, the number of people who want Cheney included is not. While these respondents weren't asked about other officials such as Rumsfeld, Rice, etc.  I can't imagine that they would exclude these other officials if they included Bush and Cheney.

So for those of us who want these people held legally accountable we know that most people recognize that we tortured so we don't have to convince them of this fact. What we need to address is the distortion in the media that torture works (Kiriakou example) and the almost unanimous agreement among our beltway media personalities that we shouldn't have criminal investigations/prosecutions because it will tear the country apart, etc. We need to start pressing them on why they think following the rule of law will tear our country apart so that we can reveal that this is a false argument. 

In addition,  based upon my previous post about the NYT poll  we need to focus our efforts on the TV personalities who are doing this because most people still get their news from the TV.

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  1. Did you see the article on a torture poll that included religion? Turns out fundamentalists lean strongly toward torture (over 60%!).
    The article points to a Pew poll,but I haven't had time to look at that yet:

  2. I saw that mentioned on DU. I didn't get a chance to look at it. But when I saw your comment I clicked on your link and found their chart. I've added it as a new post so we can view it. Thanks, Jim.


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