Americans Are Basically OK With CIA Torture Methods Like Rectal Feeding

Despite a scathing report on torture, a majority of survey respondents approve of the CIA's grisly methods.

Most Americans are fine with the CIA's torture methods used in the wake of 9/11, according to a new poll conducted by Pew Research. 

In the wake of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report, released last week, 51% of respondents said that they think the CIA was justified using the methods in question, which included water boarding, rectal feeding, and sleep deprivation.

Only 29% of Americans said that torture was not justified. Another 20% said they did not have an opinion. The survey of 1,001 adult Americans was conducted December 11-14.

Despite the Senate report, which said torture provided no actionable intelligence that couldn’t be found elsewhere, poll respondents disagreed; 56% of them said that torture did provide intelligence that prevented terrorist attacks. Only 28% concurred with the intelligence committee report that torture didn’t provide this type of intelligence.

Republicans were much more likely to approve of the CIA’s use of torture, with more than two thirds saying that it was justified. Democrats could not agree on this issue, while 46% said that the CIA’s methods were wrong, 37% said that they were justifiable.

Respondents were almost evenly split on whether the Senate Intelligence Committee should have released the report. Forty-three percent said that the decision was not justified, while 42% said it was the right thing to do.

Most white Americans (57%) found the CIA’s methods justified, while blacks and Hispanics were more divided.  Younger respondents  (under 30) were less likely to say the CIA’s methods were justified than those over 50 years of age. Men were more supportive of torture than were women.

However, the public didn’t seem to pay much interest in the matter. While it was one of the most reported news stories of the week, just 23% of respondents said that they followed news about the torture report closely. By contrast, 35% said that they were paying close attention to the demonstrations around the country in the wake of two grand jury decisions not to indict police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men.

Cliff Weathers is a former senior editor at AlterNet and served as a deputy editor at Consumer Reports. Twitter @cliffweathers.

 

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