Liberals and conservatives alike hail Boston bombing investigation

April 15, 2014

FBI agents gather near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 16. (AP Photo)

Liberals and conservatives agree, the federal government did something right in its handling of the Boston Marathon bombing.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds 67 percent of Americans approve of how the investigation was handled, including more than six in 10 of both liberals and conservatives, and majorities across every major political and demographic group in the poll.

Northeastern residents -- living closest to both the 2013 Boston bombing and Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York -- give federal investigators the highest praise. Almost three-quarters approve of investigations that followed the attacks, including 48 percent who approve "strongly." Fewer than three in 10 in the South, Midwest or Western regions express intensely positive views.

The investigation succeeded in finding suspects, with Tamerlan Tsarnaev killed and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev facing a trial that might result in the death penalty (if convicted, most Americans support such a verdict). But investigators also faced criticism for mishaps, including the shooting of Ibragim Todashev, a Chechen man connected to the Tsarnaev brothers, during a lengthy interrogation that became violent. A Department of Justice investigation ruled in March the FBI agent who shot him was justified in using deadly force.

The poll also finds positive reviews for the government's efforts at preventing terrorism overall, with 58 percent saying they have a favorable view of what the United States is doing to thwart attacks. Partisanship plays a larger role in this broader assessment, with favorable views peaking at over seven in 10 Democrats compared with roughly half of independents and Republicans.

But the Boston bombings investigation inspires more partisan unity. Three-quarters of Democrats as well as more than six in 10 Republicans and independents approve of the federal government's handling of the investigation.

Disapproval of the Boston attack investigation peaks at 39 percent among those who identify as "very" conservative, perhaps reflecting concerns about civil liberties during the manhunt. The investigation and apprehension of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev involved an unprecedented effort to lock down Boston, with door-to-door searches by armed federal and local authorities. Still, 59 percent of very conservative Americans approve of the investigation.

The public is not always unified in response to issues surrounding terrorism. In the days immediately following the Boston bombing one year ago, most Democrats in a Post-ABC poll said they had a great deal or good amount of confidence in the ability of the U.S. government to prevent attacks in this country; most independents and Republicans reported "a fair amount" of confidence or none at all.

The new Post-ABC poll was conducted April 9 to 13, 2014, among a random national sample of 1,015 adults, including users of both conventional and cellular phones. Overall results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by SSRS of Media, Pa.

See interactive poll results here.

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