Pew poll: Public support for torture at five-year high

In case you’re wondering who won the de facto debate between Obama and Cheney earlier this year, wonder no more:


Often/sometimes is up 10 points since Obama became president and five points since he and Cheney started tangling over this, with support at a clear majority for the first time since Pew began polling it. Surely this must reflect a sharp Cheney-provoked surge in angry wingnuttery among the angry wingnut base, no? Why … no:


Republicans are +2 since Obama was sworn in, independents are +9, and Democrats are +18. Perhaps the new numbers reflect momentary jitters among the population about KSM being tried in civilian court? Nope: Obama announced that decision on November 13, five days after Pew finished conducting this poll.

So what gives? Maybe this:


GOPers are +5 since June while indies are +8 and Democrats once again reach double digits. No way to tell whether it’s the dithering over Afghanistan that’s driving it (probably) or the endless ballet with Iran over its nuke program, but there may be something else at work. Just as having an ardent pro-choicer in office has swelled the ranks of pro-lifers, foreign-policy fencesitters may be sufficiently worried about The One’s dovishness that they’re pushing back by coming down in favor of torture. That certainly would jibe with the “toughness” results.

All of this comes from Pew’s omnibus poll on foreign policy, incidentally, which is worth skimming for some surprising results. Here’s another one that caught me off guard, but is probably explained by the same logic of the last paragraph:


More support for Israel now than in Bush’s last few years in office? I thought the left told us last year’s election was a mandate for The One to follow his bleeding heart’s desire. Another goodie:


This one worries me, even though (a) it too can be explained as a backlash to Obama’s aggressive multilateralism and (b) this question is largely a function, I think, of war-weariness (note the steady Vietnam-era decline). For the first time in 45 years, a plurality favors disengagement/isolationism? Way to give the Paulnuts a boost, Barry Dubya.

Update: Actually, I’m probably looking at that last graph as a glass that’s half empty. After six years in Iraq and eight years in Afghanistan, with another surge looming when the poll was taken, isolationists still can’t command a clear majority?