Politics & Government

Poll: Americans split over investigating torture allegations

WASHINGTON — American public opinion is split almost evenly over whether a bipartisan blue-chip commission should be created to investigate how the U.S. government interrogated detainees captured during the Bush administration's war on terror.

A new McClatchy-Ipsos poll found that 46 percent of Americans oppose creation of such a commission, while 41 percent favor it. Some 13 percent were unsure.

The public is similarly split on whether to prosecute the government officials who authorized interrogation techniques that are found to be torture, with 48 percent saying they should not be prosecuted and 43 percent saying they should be, with 9 percent uncertain.

Americans are quite clearly against prosecuting the people who actually conducted the interrogations as authorized by top government officials, with 62 percent opposed to such prosecutions and only 30 percent favoring them, with 8 percent undecided.

Those findings emerged from the McClatchy-Ipsos poll of 1,004 adults across the country, taken from April 30-May 3. The survey had an error margin of 3.09 percent for the entire sample, although those questions were asked of only half the sample, and those answers carry an error margin of 4.4 percentage points.

A slight 51 percent majority of Americans believe that controlling costs should be the main emphasis of any healthcare overhaul plan pursued by President Barack Obama and Congress, with 42 percent saying that expanding health insurance coverage for all Americans should be the primary focus; 8 percent weren't sure. This answer, too, had an error margin of 4.4 percentage points.

One American in five said that overhauling the healthcare system should be the government's top priority, and another 38 percent said it should be among the top three priorities. The error margin was 3.09 percentage points.

The public mood appears to be lightening, with 55 percent of Americans saying they think the country is moving in the right direction and only 38 percent saying it's on the wrong track. That's considerably sunnier than the response the same question drew in a McClatchy-Ipsos poll taken April 2-6, when 45 percent said the nation was headed in the right direction and 48 percent said it was on the wrong track.

The public remains about as uncertain about the state of the economy as it was a month ago, however. Only 10 percent say the economy has turned the corner on the current crisis, while 38 percent say they think the worst is yet to come, and 48 percent say the economy has stabilized but not yet begun to improve. A month ago 8 percent said we'd turned the corner, 36 percent said the worst is still ahead, and 52 percent said the economy had stabilized but not begun to improve. In both polls 4 percent were uncertain.

President Obama remains highly popular, with 65 percent of Americans approving of how he's handling his job and 31 percent disapproving.

Some 829 of the people surveyed were registered voters. Of them, 49 percent identified themselves as Democrats or leaning that way, while 35 percent said they were Republicans or leaning toward the GOP. Some 16 percent said they were independents.


These are some of the findings of a McClatchy- Ipsos poll conducted April 3-May 3, 2009. For the survey, a nationally representative, randomly selected sample of exactly 1,004 adults aged 18 and older across the United States was interviewed by Ipsos. With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate within 3.09 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what they would have been had the entire adult population in the U.S. been polled. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error. These data were weighted to ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the actual U.S. population according to U.S. Census figures. Respondents had the option to be interviewed in English or Spanish.

Interview dates: April 30 - May 3, 2009

Interviews: 1004 adults; 829 registered voters

488 Democrats/Lean Democrats; 351 Republicans/Lean Republicans

Margin of error: + 3.09 for all adults; + 3.4 for registered voters

+ 4.4 for Democrats; + 5.23 for Republicans

For questions 6-7: 518 respondents. Error margin: 4.4

For questions 8-9: 486 respondents. Error margin: 4.4


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