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54 Percent of Americans: Torture Often/Sometimes Justified

4:22 PM, Dec 5, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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The new numbers from Pew have support for torture at a 5 year high, with 19 percent saying torture is "often" justified when interrogating terror suspects and 35 percent saying it is "sometimes" justified. That's a majority of Americans who, unlike the president, understand that there are very real and very tough choices to be made between our security and our ideals.

Allahpundit looks at the numbers (click through to see the tables):

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.

Also interesting, as Allah points out, is the near 20 year high in the number of Americans who sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians, while the number who sympathize more with the Palestinians is near a 20 year low. All this while Obama has invested his rhetorical abilities in making the case against torture and in a more "even-handed" approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict that puts "daylight" between Washington and Jerusalem.

Of course, over the same period of time, support for health care reform, at least in the form Democrats are pursuing and Obama is advocating, has plummeted, the number of Americans that believe in global warming has dropped dramatically over the past year, and the stimulus has sapped any appetite voters might have otherwise had for any additional stimulus spending of the kind being bandied about in Congress.

Allahpundit points to one explanation: the increasing number of Americans (up 9 points to 47 percent just since June) who think our Nobel laureate president -- the "skinny but tough" guy who famously promised to bring a gun to a knife fight -- is "not tough enough" for the job. Maybe, but that doesn't explain the similar collapse in support for his domestic agenda. In the event, I'm less concerned with the "root causes" of Obama's unpersuasiveness than the effect it has on the debate, i.e. the threat it poses to American support for the war in Afghanistan on the downside and, on the upside, the boon it could be for Republicans as they try to block Obama's domestic program in 2010.

Exit question, in honor of Allahpundit: What percentage of Americans would support "enhanced interrogation" given the spike in support for real torture? In May of 2009, a CNN poll found that 50 percent of Americans supported the Bush administration's use of waterboarding. Could that number be up 10 points, too?