“The public clearly makes an assumption very different from that of the Obama administration or Mr. Brennan: the public thinks targeting American citizens abroad is out of bounds,” said Peter Woolley, professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University and analyst for PublicMind.
Support or opposition to the legality of drone attacks on Americans does not vary by party identification. Republicans are just as likely as Democrats or independents to say it is illegal, or that the U.S. government can do it. And men are just as likely as women (47% and 48%) to think it is illegal, though more men than women say it is legal (30% versus 18%). Non-whites are significantly more likely than whites (57% versus 44%) to think it is illegal to target American citizens abroad.
However, by a wide six-to-one margin (75%-13%) voters approve of the U.S. military using drones to carry out attacks abroad “on people and other targets deemed a threat to the U.S.” Republicans, men and whites approve more strongly than Democrats, women, and non-whites, but approval is robust in all demographic categories.
Voters also approve by a strong three-to-one margin (65%-21%) the CIA using drones to carry out attacks abroad, but this approval is significantly less than approval for the U.S. military carrying out such attacks.
“Clearly some people think it’s important to make a distinction between the military and the CIA,” said Woolley. “In fact, in any given demographic category, approval of CIA drone attacks is 8 to 17 percentage points less than support for U.S. military attacks.”
One clear finding is that U.S. voters are paying attention to drones. About two-thirds (65%) say they’ve heard some or a lot about the pilotless machines. Fewer than one-in-six (15%) say they’ve heard nothing. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say that they’ve heard a lot about the drones (45% compared to 29%). And twice as many men as women (51% versus 23%) claim to have heard “a lot” about the drones.
The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 814 registered voters was conducted nationally by telephone with both landline and cell phones from December 10 through December 16, 2012, and has a margin of error of +/-3.4 percentage points.
This article was originally posted at Atlantic Highlands Herald
American Public Loves Drones
But, when it comes to drones, the fight in Washington has no parallel in the public at large. Put simply: Americans love drones.
A look across the polling landscape on the Obama Administration’s increased reliance on drones suggests that support for the strikes is not only wide but also bipartisan.
A February 2012 Washington Post-ABC poll showed that eight in ten Americans (83 percent) approved of the Obama Administrations use of unmanned drones against suspected terrorists overseas — with a whopping 59 percent strongly approving of the practice. Support for the drone attacks was also remarkably bipartisan. Seventy six percent of Republicans and 58 percent of Democrats approved of the policy.
In that same poll, respondents were asked whether they supported using drones to target American citizens who are suspected terrorists, the question that stands at the heart of the recent flare-up in Congress over the practice. Two thirds of people in the survey said they approved of doing so.
It’s not just Post-ABC polling that suggests the use of drones is widely popular with the American public. A September 2011 Pew poll showed that 69 percent of people said that the increased use of drones was a good thing while just 19 percent said it was a bad thing.
The reason drone strikes are popular? Because they are perceived to be effective in reducing the threat of terrorism without endangering American lives. (Polling on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has, for several years now, suggested that a majority of the public believes neither was worth fighting almost certainly due to the losses of American lives.) In a September 2011 Post-ABC poll, three-quarters of the public said drone strikes against suspected terrorists in Yemen and Pakistan had been either ”very” or “somewhat” effective to reduce the threat of terrorism.
Now there are all sorts of “to be sure” statements regarding the data above. To be sure, the average American isn’t paying close attention to the issue of drones and how they are being used. To be sure, the debate over what the government can and can’t do as well as how much or little it should be required to tells its citizenry its doing is a worthy one. To be sure, making policy decisions simply based on what the public wants (or thinks it wants) is a dangerous game.
But, it’s also important to remember as the drone debate gains steam in Washington that there is little public appetite for an extended look at how unmanned attacks fit into our broader national security policy. Minds are made up on the matter. And, if the public has anything to do with it, drones are here to stay.
This article was originally posted at The Washington Post
Scroll down to add / read comments
|In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Information Clearing House has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is Information ClearingHouse endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)|