May 6th, 2009
12:33 PM ET
14 years ago

Poll: Don't investigate torture techniques


A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation indicates that most Americans don't want to see an investigation of Bush administration officials who authorized harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists. (Photo Credit: Getty Images/File)

WASHINGTON (CNN) - A new national poll indicates that most Americans don't want to see an investigation of Bush administration officials who authorized harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists, even though most people think such procedures were forms of torture.

Six in ten people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Wednesday believe that some of the procedures, such as water boarding, were a form of torture, with 36 percent disagreeing.

But half the public approves of the Bush administration's decision to use of those techniques during the questioning of suspected terrorists, with 50 percent in approval and 46 percent opposed.

"Roughly one in five Americans believe those techniques were torture but nonetheless approve of the decision to use those procedures against suspected terrorists," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "That goes a long way toward explaining why a majority don't want to see former Bush officials investigated."

Fifty-seven percent of those questioned don't want Congress to investigate Bush officials who authorized those harsh interrogation procedures, with 42 percent calling for action by lawmakers. Fifty-five percent also don't want a similar investigation by an independent panel.

Investigations of the military and intelligence personnel who actually used those techniques during interrogations are even less popular. Nearly two out of three Americans don't want Congress to investigate the who carried out those procedures. Fifty-five percent don't want a similar investigation by an independent panel.

The poll's release comes as a preliminary internal report on the Justice Department investigation into the authors of the Bush administration's so-called "torture memos" does not call for criminal prosecutions, but indicates the government might urge state bar associations to take sanctions against the memo writers, according to two government sources familiar with the report.

The draft, which now goes to Attorney General Eric Holder for approval or revisions, is expected to be finalized in the coming days.

"The Obama administration's recent decisions not to launch an investigation into these matters may sit well with the public overall, but not with members of Obama's own party," Holland says. "Most independents and Republicans don't think it's a good idea to investigate Bush officials involved in these decisions. But about two-thirds of Democrats support such investigations."

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted April 23-26, with 2,019 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

Listen: CNN Director of Polling Keating Holland on the new poll

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Filed under: Poll
soundoff (61 Responses)
  1. Bob in Pa

    They all knew, there is no scapegoat here.
    Stop dragging our country through the mud.

    Move on, there's nothing to see here !

    May 6, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  2. Barbara Independent in NY

    Would the people that approve of these torture techniques want something like this to happen to them or their families. America's sense of HONOR has always been displayed with a great deal of pride. If we don't hold ourselves responsibile when we do something wrong, why should any other country in the world listen to or respect us? The Bush Administration is a great source of SHAME for America.

    May 6, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  3. Rick

    absolutely should be investigated. The lawyers should be held accountable for advising that torture is legal. Their opinions carry weight and people suffer for it.

    May 6, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  4. Kentucky

    Public Opinion will change once the investigation starts. Public opinion changed on Iraq once the facts came out. The same thing will happen here. The United States is engaged in a great test of the proposition that no man, no matter how powerful or rich, is above the law. President's have more power to change laws than anyone, if they do not like the law. Americans are free to disagree with a law, but they are not free to break that law.

    May 6, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  5. don corpier

    my god, i went into shock when i heard your poll results. i think your polls are way off base. the majority of people i know think torture is an abomination of decency. its also against the geneva convention and every other law you can dig up. the people that gave the ok for this should be prosecuted and given stiff penalties. is this nation moving towards the principles of nazi germany.

    May 6, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  6. Steve

    Let's also investigate and prosecute former Bill Clinton administration official whose policy led to 9/11 in the first place: Jamie Gorelik, the "wall" she set up between the CIA and FBI prevented the CIA from sharing intel with FBI and allowed terrorists to operate unchecked in this country. Let's bring out all the dirty laundrys and have a go at it, shall we?

    May 6, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  7. Obama Victim

    terrorists derserve everything they got and more

    May 6, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  8. Margaret

    We do not decide whether to prosecute crimes in this country based on polls. If torture is illegal (it is) and it is committed and endorsed by an American administration (it was), the it must be prosecuted. If we have slid to such a low state that we will not, then it will have to be prosecuted internationally. What has happened to the morality of the American people? Wake up and find your soul before you are the one being tortured!

    May 6, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  9. zgomer

    Why bring things up from the past when it won't change things.

    May 6, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  10. hadenough

    I guess the people would rather the terrorists strike us again-is that what the majority wants?? Thanks to Bush for keeping us safe unlike other people I know. And remember Obama fans if you are so obsessed with taking Bush down your lovely Pelosi among others, will go with him.

    May 6, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
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