If Barack Obama hoped to convince America that Dick Cheney was wrong about Obama making America less safe by releasing the interrogation memos, the latest Rasmussen poll shows he badly miscalculated.  Despite his own high personal approval ratings and Cheney’s low scores, 58% of respondents believe that Obama endangered national security.  Only 28%, far below the numbers of his own party, believe it helped America enhance its image abroad (via Power Line):

Fifty-eight percent (58%) believe the Obama administration’s recent release of CIA memos about the harsh interrogation methods used on terrorism suspects endangers the national security of the United States. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 28% believe the release of the memos helps America’s image abroad.

Thirty-seven percent (37%) of voters now believe the U.S. legal system worries too much about protecting individual rights when national security is at stake. But 21% say the legal system is too concerned about protecting national security. Thirty-three percent (33%) say the balance between the two is about right.

If anything, Rasmussen gives the poll an optimistic spin for Obama. The crosstabs are devastating.

  • 58% said the Obama administration should not investigate the Bush administration on interrogations, while only 28% wanted investigations.  Democrats split evenly on the question, 42%-42%, and only 22% of independents wanted investigations.  Only self-professed liberals approved of investigations, and only by a 58%-31% majority.
  • Similar numbers appear on whether Obama damaged or enhanced American security with this release.  Democrats actually lean towards damage by a tiny margin, 41%-40%, while independents overwhelmingly believe Obama damaged national security, 65%-23%.
  • None of the age or gender demographics give Obama an approval rating on these two questions above 37%.  Every single age and gender demographic believes by a wide majority that Obama damaged national security and should not conduct investigations into torture allegations from the previous administration.
  • Only the under-$20K demographic has a majority believing that Obama should investigate the Bush administration.  Every other income demographic believes otherwise, by solid majorities.  Every income demographic believes by significant majorities that the release of the memos damaged national security except the under-$20K demo, which holds that view by plurality (39%-35%).
  • Americans in every demographic are more inclined to believe that the US legal system worries too much about individual rights rather than national security.

Prior to the release of the memos, Obama could have just ignored Cheney and let his accusations fade.  Instead, he decided to tackle him head on, and turned Cheney’s accusation into a self-fulfilling prophecy.  It’s hard to imagine how a President with personal approval ratings in the mid-50s could score so badly on this, unless Americans have concluded that Obama’s doing real damage to national security.