Poll: Majority believes waterboarding is torture

In the latest in a series of somewhat conflicting surveys, a plurality also says the use of the technique isn't justified.

Published April 28, 2009 2:35PM (EDT)

Sometimes Americans can't really decide what they think about a given issue. Waterboarding, apparently, is one of those issues. A few polls on the topic have come out recently, and all have presented somewhat different pictures of public opinion.

In the latest, a long survey conducted by the New York Times and CBS News, Greg Sargent noticed one result that might otherwise have gone buried: Fully 71 percent of respondents called waterboarding "torture." Only 26 percent disagreed. And while 37 percent said they believe its use was justified, a plurality -- 46 percent -- said they believe it wasn't. (Interestingly, that second question was asked first; I wonder if the number who said it wasn't justified might have been higher if the order were reversed.)

That result conflicts with a recent Gallup poll, which found that 55 percent of respondents (and 61 percent of those who said they've been following the story "very closely" believe that "the use of harsh interrogation techniques for terrorism suspects" was justified.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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