A new A.P. poll tells us:
Some 52 percent of people say torture can be at least sometimes justified to obtain information about terrorist activities from suspects, an increase from 38 percent in 2005 when the AP last asked the question. More than two-thirds of Republicans say torture can be justified compared with just over a third of Democrats.
On Obama’s plan to close the Guantanamo prison, 47 percent approve, while 47 percent disapprove. Again, the country is divided on partisan lines, with most Republicans disapproving and most Democrats approving. Independents are evenly divided.
Despite the president’s safety assurances, more than half of Americans say they would be worried about the chance of terrorism suspects escaping from U.S. high-security prisons. Yet again, more Republicans express concern than Democrats. Still, the figures indicate that the GOP-fueled fear may be resonating.
Leading the charge by Republicans against Obama’s policies is Cheney, who the poll shows may be benefiting from his outspokenness since leaving office. Nearly a quarter had a favorable opinion of the former vice president, a measure that’s risen steadily from a low of 13 percent in one 2007 poll.
For all the out-of-power GOP’s angst, the poll found one bright spot for it: More people identified themselves as Republican than did last month, 23 percent to 18 percent.
(Did the GOP comeback trail start in the Cheney driveway?)
Gallup shows a different picture — even more unfavorable toward the administration, with Americans opposed to closing Guantanamo by a 2 to 1 margin, and there are these interesting details:
Americans are especially resistant to closing the prison and transferring the terrorism suspects to prisons in their own states — only 23% favor this, while 74% are opposed. That represents a nine-point falloff from the 32% who support moving prisoners to the United States (with no specific location mentioned). Thus, even a segment of Americans who in general support closing Guantanamo are opposed to moving its terrorism suspects to prisons in their own “backyard.”
The poll indicates that Americans tend to be emotionally invested in the outcome of the policy — 7 in 10 say they would be “upset” if Obama does not follow their preferred course of action on the issue. However, most of the highly charged sentiment comes from those who oppose closing the prison. Fifty-four percent of Americans not only say they oppose closing Guantanamo and moving prisoners to the United States, but say they would be “upset” if the government does this. By contrast, only 18% of Americans support closing the prison and would be upset if the government does not do so.
If there were ever proof of the humongous gap between the president’s personal popularity and the popularity of his policies, this is it. And all those who thought Cheney was a godsend for the administration and sure to seal the coffin of conservatism? Wrong again. It seems that Obama’s powers of persuasion are no match for those of Darth Vader.