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. Tom Paine

    Absolutely. If you want to investigate and prosecute the Bush administration, start by prosecuting Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton.

    May 6, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  2. Robin

    I'm not sorry the mastermind of 9/11 had water poured on his face, up his nose, down his throat.

    Just like he is not sorry 2998 Americans died horrible deaths and would do it again if given the chance.

    May 6, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  3. Tulsa

    NO. Don't sweep this under the rug. If we don't police ourselves then we cannot hope to keep any shred of moral high ground.

    May 6, 2009 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  4. Minnesotan

    Sorry, I don't believe it. Every American I've spoken with wants an investigation and prosecution of anyone in the Bush Administration who may have committed an illegal act. Otherwise, it just sets a precedent for any future Republican president to abuse the office.

    May 6, 2009 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  5. Moe NY

    I want this investigated and I want those responsible for these horrendous acts brought to justice, they are no better than any other american....they broke he law of the land and should be held accountable for their actions.

    May 6, 2009 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  6. duh ray ray

    This poll is an out and out LIE.

    May 6, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  7. Terry

    We need to know what we were doing. We don't want to be like the good Germans who, after World War II, reported that they had no idea what was happening to all those Jews who went into prison camps and never seemed to come out.

    If our government was doing what we all would have approved of, there is no reason to keep it secret. If they were doing things we would not have approved of, we need to know what it was.

    No one should be prosecuted because they were doing what their government told them to do.

    To hide this stuff to keep up a false "image" of ourselves is nothing to be proud ot.

    May 6, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  8. Cheryl F

    I'm always suspicious of these CNN polls – they rarely seem to agree with what the majority of the individuals I talk to think on a subject and this one is no exception.

    Virtually every single person I know or have talked to wants Bush, Cheney, and all the rest of them brought to trial for war crimes. Waterboarding is torture, there is no other way to describe it. Information gained by its use is totally worthless.

    I want the people responsible for torture taken to trial and put in prison.

    May 6, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  9. Quarterback

    An opinion doesn't make it right.

    I may want to kill my neighbor because he is an idiot.

    But that doesn't make it legal.

    Torture is illegal. It must be investigated. Or we are no longer a moral superpower but just a bunch of third world punks.

    May 6, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  10. 1st Chair

    We must investigate this in order for America to live up to it's true bread. To not investigate would be like to allow racism to go unchecked, it would be to allow a women to get rape repeatly and never to say it's not right. My point is the guilty must be held accountable.

    If Ameica don't stand up for something we will be allowing the Men and Women in the Armed forces to die for nothing@!!!!!!

    PS: Can my fellow soldiers get out of jail now for following orders??????

    May 6, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  11. Avg Joe

    How soon history is forgotten... It's ok to torture because it's us doing it to other people, right? Very frightening thought process.

    May 6, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  12. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    I don't know who conducts these polls, but I want to see an investigation. Condi Rice has recently said that she passed the info to the CIA. A complete thourogh invstigation needs to be done to see who authorized these torture techniques. Condi stated that the administration felt terrorized and that was why they approved these techniques. If you ask me, she just confessed to a conspiracy.

    May 6, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  13. Chas in Iowa

    I personally challange the validity of the poll you are referencing.
    There is no way that the general public has approved the Bush administrations use of torture,....period.
    Americans do not condone supression of a persons rights under any circumstances.
    There are some political pundits that are looking at the possibility of exposure and general disdain by the public.
    The discussion isn't about the use of torture, it's about whether we as Americans have the guts to expose those who choose to ignore those basic principles.
    Bush, chenney, Rumsfield, and a host of lawyers working for the Bush administration should be asked to answer some very pointed questions and accept the ramifications.

    May 6, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  14. Mike from Vancouver BC

    What is it that they say about ignorance?

    May 6, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  15. Scott the Independent

    I don't trust the CNN poll – I think they are biased; most people I know that think like more or not belive if you comit a crime you do the time.

    May 6, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  16. Jerry

    Investigations can exonerate as well as expose. Without an investigation the American public will not know whether laws were broken, powers and trust abused, or whether indictments should be handed down for further criminal investigation or prosecution. America will not reclaim moral credibility or ability to exercise global leadership as long as we are fearful of knowing the truth. And that fear will exact a terrible cost for America long into the future.

    May 6, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  17. lovable liberal

    America, pro-torture. It's appalling. None of this was remotely a ticking time bomb scenario. it was routine torture for general information. Torquemada would be proud.

    May 6, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  18. Kathy

    It doesn't matter what the majority of Americans THINK. Torture is a crime against humanity. Anyone who indicated that they believed that "harsh interrogation techniques" WEREN'T torture, or that torture was justified, should be ashamed of themselves.

    May 6, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  19. Is it 2013 yet?

    To the 46 percent that swallowed the Kool-aid and listen to Obama and his media sheep liars, WATERBOARDING was done on THREE people and the FACTS are that all three would not talk and laughed at our methods and ALL three gave up information that saved an attack on the Brooklyn bridge and a 73 story tower in Cally AND we gained more insight on the doings of these terrorists that AGAIN saved lives.

    How do I know this, the memo's that Barry was challenged to release by Cheney and Obama read, ALL contain these FACTS.

    They DID NOT WANT to waterboard and only did after everything else failed and it saved lives, and yes even you genius LIBERALS were SAVED that hide behind your sanctimonius veil of "what this Country stands for".

    You stand for NOTHING if you are KILLED by a terrorist.

    The gutless one won't release the Airfarce photo's from last week, but he will release photo's of harsh interogations, perfect, a window into his anti-American mind.

    This should be a no brainer, but then again, you are Liberals.

    May 6, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  20. Kelby In Houston, TX

    What a perfect time for me to dust off an old adage from the primaries and the general election.... ahem* YOUR POLLS MEAN NOTHING!!!!

    If the federal government made a mistake and saw you, one of its citizens as a threat, took you into custody, tortured you and left you for dead in a field, when you finally regain conciousness and health, would you then seek retribution? Would you seek justice of any kind?

    Maybe Nixon was right, When the president does it, it's not illegal. Maybe the president, who is sworn to uphold the constitution is not bound by it's laws?!?
    Maybe, I really am being naive for believing in justice in America.
    Maybe i should give up and let hypocrisy rule the day.
    Maybe, there is no hope
    Maybe, there will be no change

    May 6, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  21. once upon a horse

    I can tell that President Obama really doesn't want to deal with this and even though I am not like the right in favor or torture (it gets me that most of these same folks call themselves good Christians as well) I wish this would all go away. We need to look forward and not backward. And if this thing was not so bad why all the cover up? I think a can of worms have been opened and no matter what happens with it now there will be no winners over it.

    May 6, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  22. KJ

    Wait a minute. So, when a country tortures our soliders/sailors it's okay because the I never hear the American people in an uproar when the media reports it. So, the previous administration performed some type of interrogation/torture to the middle east extremist and now all of a sudden the American people (not all) want these folks to be brought to justice.

    Folks, you better start looking back at history before you judge anyone from the Bush administration. No, I'm not a Republican either nor am I a Democrat so before anyone goes there. Enough of the Independent panels....wake up Americans!!!

    Tom Paine, you hit the nail right on the head!!

    May 6, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  23. Slash

    Are that many Americans really pathetic, hypocritical monsters who would see other human beings tortured to satisfy their own cowardice?

    We're suppose to be the good guys. The second we started torturing, we lost that. Now we're just a side in a war, and if we support torture, then none of us are innocent anymore. Snap out of it before we become the monsters we're supposed to be fighting.

    May 6, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  24. Goverment is your Keeper

    Best start to investigating BO for the deaths of children in Afghanistan and Pakistan....

    May 6, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  25. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    BALONEY.... this "poll" is obviously fake....

    Why should Bush and his henchmen be above the law? I'm sick and tired of their being no accountability in American government. Bush and Cheney and Rice etc. should all be answerable to the American people. If not, what's to prevent other politicians from trampling American laws and the Constitution (as Bush and company so smugly did).

    Why should these people live fat, comfortable lives into retirement? What they did was immoral and illegal.

    May 6, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
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