The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

From moderate Democrats to white Evangelicals, nearly every demographic group believes torture can be justified

(Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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According to a new poll released Tuesday by The Washington Post and ABC News, a majority of Americans believe that torture of suspected terrorists can be justified — even in the wake of graphic revelations by a Senate Intelligence Committee report of exactly what such tactics look like. That public approval conceals partisan differences, as colleagues Adam Goldman and Peyton Craighill write:

Views on the CIA’s tactics break down sharply along ideological lines. Liberal Democrats are most disgusted with the agency’s actions, while conservative Republicans are most likely to defend it.
Democrats who identify as moderate or conservative are more supportive of the program, joining majorities of independents and Republicans who say it was justified.

Those ideological poles at opposite ends of public opinion aren't that surprising. But the distribution of demographic groups between them is. A majority of nearly every group — non-whites, women, young adults, the elderly, Midwesterners, suburbanites, Catholics, moderates, the wealthy — said that torture of suspected terrorists can be often or sometimes justified.

A majority of only one other group beyond liberals and Democrats disagreed: people with no religion.

Below is the full breakdown of responses to this question in the Post-ABC News poll. If you oppose torture under any circumstance, this fine-grained look may be even more discouraging to you than the top-line finding: