The Washington Post

Americans are split on the Bergdahl swap — and (of course) they’re concerned about negotiating with terrorists

In this image taken from video obtained from Voice Of Jihad Web site, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other Associated Press reporting, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl sits in a vehicle guarded by the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan. (Voice Of Jihad via AP)

A new poll shows Americans are about evenly split on the deal that returned five Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

The Fox News poll -- the first to directly test reactions to the increasingly contentious Bergdahl situation -- shows 45 percent of Americans approve of the swap, while 47 percent disapprove.

It comes as politicians continue to revise their previous statements painting Bergdahl as a hero and as members of Congress ask some difficult questions, including whether Bergdahl is a traitor/deserter and whether the administration should have given so much in exchange for his return.

On that latter question, the Fox News poll asked Americans whether they're concerned that negotiating with terrorists would encourage such groups to hold American soldiers hostage in the future. In that case, 84 percent said they were at least somewhat concerned, and a strong majority -- 57 percent -- said they were very concerned.


This, though, doesn't strike us as terribly surprising. After all, negotiating with terrorists is inherently a risky proposition, and we're sure the Obama administration would acknowledge that even if asked today. Indeed, it's hard to see how anybody would think that it wouldn't be at least somewhat risky to engage in talks with terrorists. They are, after all, terrorists.

By contrast, if you asked Americans whether the U.S. government should negotiate with terrorists at all, we're sure you'd get a quite different answer. This question was merely asking whether people are concerned about the adverse effects of such a thing -- not whether that thing would be worth doing, period.

(Incidentally, we have looked for polling on the straight negotiating-with-terrorists question and haven't found anything. We welcome any help in that regard.)

The more interesting number here is the overall reaction to the Bergdahl swap. The poll was conducted Sunday through Tuesday, when this stuff was still all very new, so it's not surprising to see Americans split in half -- as they do on so many issues.

As Congress continues to ask questions and as Bergdahl's biography continues to undergo scrutiny, we could see those numbers move quickly.

The Post's Dan Lamothe points out key moments in the video released by the Taliban showing Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's recovery. (Editor's note: This video was originally published June 4, 2014.) (Dan Lamothe and Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)
Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.



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