Following up on David's earlier post on the WaPo/ABC torture poll, Gallup has now released its poll on "harsh interrogation techniques."
Let us just divert from our regular program here for a moment. If the Department of Defense's own Joint Personnel Recovery Agency calls it torture, and the International Red Cross--the international agency officially tasked with monitoring international detention--call it torture, it's torture. It's not "harsh interrogation techniques." At least WaPo called it torture.
That said, here's what Gallup found:
PRINCETON, NJ -- A new Gallup Poll finds 51% of Americans in favor and 42% opposed to an investigation into the use of harsh interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects during the Bush administration. At the same time, 55% of Americans believe in retrospect that the use of the interrogation techniques was justified, while only 36% say it was not. Notably, a majority of those following the news about this matter "very closely" oppose an investigation and think the methods were justified.
Here are the questions they asked:
Would you favor or oppose a government investigation into the use of harsh interrogation techniques of terrorism suspects?
Based on what you know or have read, do you think the use of harsh interrogation techniques for terrorism suspects was justified or not justified?
These are indeed discouraging numbers, though if you compare them to the WaPo/ABC poll, the wording could make up for as much 6 points. In Gallup's poll 55% think "harsh interrogation techniques" were justified. If respondents were asked the more factual question: "Based on what you know or have read, do you think the use of torture for terrorism suspects was justified or not justified?" would the answer have changed? Probably, and that's without the qualifier of "illegal torture techniques" included. But until a poll comes around that uses the right terminology, we won't know.
What is obvious, since a majority of those following the news think the methods were justified, is that Dick Cheney succeeded in dominating the issue last week and in changing the terms of the debate. He was largely unanswered in the media, and that was a mistake on the part of Democratic leaders. And yet, even without fact-based questions and a week dominated by Cheney and his minions of torture apologists, a slim majority would still like to see an investigation. That is, at least, encouraging.