In the second poll today showing roughly the same conclusion, Quinnipiac’s latest poll of registered voters nationwide shows that a wide majority of Americans disagree with the Obama administration’s decision to use the criminal courts to try captured terrorists. Fifty-nine percent of respondents want the US to handle such terrorists through military commissions, while only 35% agree with the White House’s policy of trying them in court. Even the President’s own party is split almost down the middle, only 48/45 in favor of criminal trials:
American voters say 59 – 35 percent that 9/11 terrorism suspects should be tried in military courts rather than in civilian courts, as currently planned. Voters say 68 – 25 percent that terrorism suspects should not receive all of the constitutional protections afforded by a civilian trial. Democrats prefer civilian courts 48 – 45 percent. Support for military courts is 73 – 23 percent among Republicans and 61 – 33 percent among independent voters.
The suspect who allegedly tried to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day should be tried as an enemy combatant rather than as an ordinary criminal, voters say 76 – 19 percent. But voters approve 52 – 42 percent of the FBI’s advice to the suspect of his right to remain silent.
“When it comes to how suspected terrorists should be treated by the American judicial system there is a significant gap between the American people and President Barack Obama,” said Brown. “Although they give the President a 49 – 44 percent approval rating on handling terrorism, the devil is in the details. When it comes to his decision to treat suspected terrorists as common criminals deserving of civilian trials rather than as enemy combatants judged by military tribunals they are strongly in the other corner. There is a similar disconnect on the basic question of whether suspected terrorists should have the same rights as ordinary criminals.
“Voters agree, however, with the Obama administration decision to advise the suspect in the Christmas bombing attempt of his right to remain silent.”
Earlier today, the WaPo/ABC poll came up with remarkably similar numbers. In that survey, respondents split 55/39 in favor of military commissions, but that was a survey of adults, not registered voters. The case of the EunuchBomber appears to have made a big difference, as the WaPo survey in November showed an almost even split of 48/47.
The Q-poll doesn’t have any kind of historical track for that question, but does break down some of the demographics. Military courts get solid majorities in every age, gender, income, religious, and education subgroup. In fact, only two demos fail to show a majority: Democrats, with the split as noted above, and black voters, who split 47/47 on the question.
Americans have as solid a consensus on this question as on any political question of the day — and the Obama adminstration is operating well outside of it.