Few Americans Object to Treatment of Guantanamo Bay Captives

by Lydia Saad

Three in four say it's "acceptable"

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- The vast majority of Americans, 72%, believe the U.S. treatment of al Qaeda and Taliban fighters at the American naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has been acceptable. Only a handful, 4%, considers it unacceptable, while one-quarter are uncertain. This is according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll of 1,011 Americans conducted Jan 25-27.

Critics of the U.S. treatment of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay -- ranging from Amnesty International to the European press and government leaders -- claim that the Taliban and al Qaeda captives should have "prisoner of war" status under the Geneva Conventions, which would give them certain humanitarian and legal protections. The Bush administration continues to review the question of prisoner of war status, but in the meantime argues it is following the spirit of the Geneva Conventions in its treatment of the captives.

U.S. Treatment of Taliban Soldiers
at Guantanamo Bay
Jan 25-27, 2002

The high level of public support for the Bush administration's policies toward the 158 captives in Guantanamo is sustained even after some of the controversial conditions are detailed. When asked whether holding a Taliban soldier "outdoors in an 8 foot by 8 foot cell," and keeping him blindfolded with his hands tied during transport is acceptable treatment, 76% of Americans say it is. Just 20% say it is unacceptable.

When asked hypothetically about those same conditions if they were applied to an American soldier captured during war, Americans are much more closely divided: 49% say it would be acceptable, 46% disagree.

Guantanamo Treatment for
Taliban vs. American Soldiers
Jan 25-27, 2002

A United American Front

Americans are fairly uniform in their support for the current treatment of the detainees in Cuba. A solid majority of Americans of all ages, educational backgrounds, and political orientations say that the treatment is acceptable. This sentiment is especially high among Bush's natural political allies: Republicans (85% support the current U.S. policy), conservatives (80%), men (80%), and upper income Americans (81%).

The largest pocket of opposition to the Guantanamo Bay policy is among those who describe their political views as "liberal." But even among this group, only 13% say that the treatment of the Taliban soldiers is unacceptable. Rather than expressing clear-cut opposition, groups normally aligned against Republican policies -- such as liberals, Democrats, and minorities -- express higher levels of "no opinion."

Support for Guantanamo Captives' Treatment by Subgroup

 

Acceptable

Unacceptable

No opinion

       
 

%

%

%

Women

63

4

33

Men

80

4

16

       

Whites

75

5

20

Non-whites

58

2

40

       

Conservatives

80

2

18

Moderates

74

2

24

Liberals

55

13

32

       

Republicans

85

2

13

Independents

65

5

30

Democrats

64

6

30

Is What's Good for the Taliban Good Enough for Americans?

As noted, the new survey finds Americans responding differently to the treatment of wartime prisoners when they are identified as members of the Taliban -- as opposed to American soldiers. Overall, 76% of Americans think that being confined in an eight-foot square cell and being blindfolded and shackled during transport is acceptable for captured Taliban soldiers. By contrast only 49% believe this would be acceptable, hypothetically, for use with captured American soldiers.

But not all Americans share the same divergent response to the two scenarios. The survey finds that a majority of men and Republicans nationwide believe that the described treatment would be acceptable for American as well as Taliban captives during wartime. Women and Democrats, somewhat less so than men and Republicans, believe this treatment would be acceptable for the Taliban captives. The big difference between the gender and partisan groups is in the perceived acceptability of harsh treatment for American soldiers. Only about a third of women and Democrats would find such treatment acceptable for Americans.

Percent Saying Guantanamo-Type Treatment Would Be Acceptable for Each Group
Jan 25-27, 2002

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1011 adults, 18 years and older, conducted Jan. 25-27, 2002. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Next, we'd like to ask you a few questions about the Taliban soldiers who are currently being held at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Based on what you have heard or read, would you consider the way the U.S. is treating the Taliban soldiers being held at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to be acceptable or unacceptable treatment, or don't you know enough to say?

 

 


Acceptable


Unacceptable

Don't know enough to say

No
answer

         

(NA) 2002 Jan 25-27

72%

4

24

*



Suppose an American soldier were captured during war and held outdoors in an 8 foot by 8 foot cell, and when traveling from one location to another was blindfolded and had his hands bound. Would you consider that to be acceptable or unacceptable treatment?

BASED ON -- 493 -- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A; ±5 PCT. PTS.

 

 

Acceptable

Unacceptable

No opinion

       

(NA) 2002 Jan 25-27

49%

46

5



Suppose a Taliban soldier were captured during war and held outdoors in an 8 foot by 8 foot cell, and when traveling from one location to another was blindfolded and had his hands bound. Would you consider that to be acceptable or unacceptable treatment?

BASED ON -- 518 -- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B; ±4 PCT. PTS.

 

 

Acceptable

Unacceptable

No opinion

       

(NA) 2002 Jan 25-27

76%

20

4



* -- Less than 0.5%

(NA) -- National adults

Get Articles in Related Topics:


Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/5302/few-americans-object-treatment-guantanamo-bay-captives.aspx
Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030