Americans divided on morality, effectiveness of torture.
Washington, D.C. – Six-in-ten (62%) Americans agree it is wrong to celebrate the death of another human being, no matter how bad that person was, a new national survey finds.
The new PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service just days after the news of Osama bin Laden’s death, also finds that 60% of Americans believe the Bible’s admonition not to “rejoice when your enemies fall” applies to how Americans should react to bin Laden’s death.
“The broad agreement that it is wrong to celebrate Osama bin Laden’s death is striking, especially because nearly two-thirds of Americans also believe that bin Laden will be eternally punished in hell for his sins,” said Dr. Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute. “Interestingly, nearly half of the religiously unaffiliated say bin Laden will be punished in hell for his sins.”
The new survey also finds that Americans are divided on the morality and efficacy of torture. Nearly half (49%) of Americans agree that the use of torture against suspected terrorists in order to gain important information is never justified, compared to 43% who disagree.
“A slim majority of Americans also say that the United States should follow the principle of the Golden Rule and not use any methods on our enemies that we would not want used on American soldiers,” said Daniel Cox, PRRI Research Director.
The country is also divided about the efficacy of harsh interrogation methods. Less than less than 3-in-10 (27%) Americans say harsh interrogation methods gave the United States critical information leading to the capture of Osama bin Laden, 17% say the tactics produced important but not critical information, 21% say they contributed little important information, and 16% say no important information was gathered from torture.
Among the findings:
- Although the country is divided on the morality and efficacy of torture, there are important religious, partisan, generational, and gender differences:
- Democrats (60%), religiously unaffiliated Americans (57%), and younger (ages 18-34) Americans (54%) are more likely than other Americans to say torture can never be justified. Among major religious groups, Catholics (53%) are most likely to say torture can never be justified.
- Women (23%), the religiously unaffiliated (20%), younger Americans (19%), and Democrats (16%) are less likely than other Americans to say harsh interrogation methods provided to critical information.
- Currently 52% say the United States should follow the principle of the Golden Rule and not use any methods on our enemies that we would not want used on American soldiers. Support for this Golden Rule principle is down from 62% in 2008 (2008 American Values Survey).
- A slim majority (52%) of Americans say capturing and killing Osama bin Laden will help America’s image in the world, compared to 20% who believe it will hurt America’s image in the world.
- More than 8-in-10 (82%) Americans agree the Osama bin Laden distorted the teachings of Islam to suit his own purposes, including 60% who completely agree.
- Americans who identify with the Tea Party have a unique position on many of these issues:
- 64% of Tea party members say God has special role for the U.S. in human history, compared to 64% of Republicans and 51% of the general public.
- 55% of Tea Party members say God had a hand in locating Osama bin Laden, compared to 49% of Republicans and 39% of the general public.
- 66% of Tea Party members DISAGREE that torture can never be justified, compared to 53% of Republicans and 43% of the general public.
- 59% of Tea Party members say harsh interrogation methods provided critical information that led to the capture of Osama bin Laden, compared to only 42% of Republicans and 27% of the general public.
Read the Questionnaire, Topline Results and Survey Methodology.
*Results from the survey were based on telephone interviews conducted May 5-8, 2011 among a national probability sample of 1,007 adults age 18 and older. The overall margin of error is +/- 3.0.