CRF Blog

Americans Have Grown More Supportive of Torture

by Bill Hayes

Looking at polling data, FiveThirtyEight reports that Americans Have Grown More Supportive of Torture.

Data shows that popular opinion on the use of torture by the U.S. government has subtly shifted since 2004, when Pew Research Center began polling Americans on the subject. Pew asked whether torture used against suspected terrorists to gain important information is justified, finding a majority of respondents (53 percent) said torture could never or only rarely be justified. But over the next five years, public opinion slowly reversed.

By November 2009, a slight majority of Americans said for the first time that torture could sometimes be justified.

In Pew’s 2011 report — its most recent — 53 percent said the U.S. government’s use of torture against suspected terrorists to gain important information can often (19 percent) or sometimes (34 percent) be justified, marking a turnaround from 2004. [more]