UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The number of Americans who would condone torture, at least when used on terrorists in order to save lives, has risen over the past two years and now stands at over 40 percent, according to a new opinion poll.
The poll released by WorldPublicOpinion.org, a project managed by the University of Maryland, found that a narrow majority of Americans — 53 percent — think all torture should be banned.
WorldPublicOpinion said a 2006 poll found that 36 percent of Americans would accept torture in terrorism or other cases, compared with 44 percent now.
The latest poll was part of an international survey of public attitudes to torture, which found that 57 percent of respondents in 19 countries opposed it under all circumstances. But in India, Nigeria, Turkey and South Korea, a majority agreed with torture at least in some cases.
WorldPublicOpinion had little explanation for the apparent rise in U.S. public tolerance for torture except to say that “the U.S. public receives a steady stream of news reports about terrorist attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
But Steve Kull of WorldPublicOpinion told a U.N. news conference on Tuesday that “the Bush administration taking the position in defence of waterboarding … I think probably has contributed to some extent to a weakening of the norm globally.”
Yvonne Terlingen, U.N. representative of rights group Amnesty International, told the news conference, “The role played by the United States in undermining the universal prohibition on torture cannot be underestimated.”