Torture grows in popularity

Poll finds that extreme counterterrorism tactics have more support than under Bush, possibly because of pop culture

By Natasha Lennard

Published October 3, 2012 12:26PM (EDT)

      ((Wikimedia/US Navy))
((Wikimedia/US Navy))

An increasing number of Americans support the torture of terror suspects, according to a new survey from YouGov.

When asked the very same set of questions posed in 2007 and 2005 polls, respondents this year answered more positively in favor of both torture and the use of nuclear weapons. Forty-one percent of the 1,000 individuals asked advocated for the use of torture on prisoners (a rise of seven percentage points since 2007). A quarter of respondents would be willing to use nuclear weapons to strike terrorists.

Professor Amy Zegart of Stanford University's Hoover Institute commissioned the YouGov survey. She attributes the growing support for extreme counterterrorism tactics to popular culture, specifically shows like "24" which depict torture as necessary for maintaining national security. The poll investigated viewing habits of respondents and found that 84 percent of frequent spy TV watchers are willing to assassinate terrorists compared to 70 percent of infrequent watchers. Meanwhile, 38 percent of frequent watchers believe waterboarding is right, compared to 28 percent of infrequent watchers.

Writing for Foreign Policy last month on the same issue, Zegart also suggested that "Americans are more likely to think assassinations and harsh interrogation practices are justified if a Democratic president uses them."




Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

24 Cia Counterterrorism Terrorism Torture Yougov