Public Opposes Terms of Gitmo Detainment

While most Americans continue to favor holding suspected terrorists at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the public overwhelmingly opposes the current terms of their imprisonment.

Given pro-and-con arguments -- letting the detainees defend themselves at trial vs. risking further terrorism if they're released -- 71 percent in this ABC News/Washington Post poll say they should either be given POW status or charged with a crime. Just 25 percent back current administration policy, holding these detainees indefinitely without charges.

Sampling, data collection and tabulation for this poll were done by TNS.

The majority view rises above the partisanship that marks many such issues. Sixty-two percent of Republicans and conservatives alike favor charging or conferring POW status on Gitmo detainees, as do three-quarters of Democrats, independents and moderates. It goes higher, to 85 percent, among liberals.

More than six in 10 Americans also think that holding prisoners at Guantanamo Bay has damaged the United States' image in the rest of the world. Fewer, 51 percent, think it's made the United States safer from terrorism, and almost as many think not.

On balance, regardless of their views on conferring charges, 57 percent support the federal government holding suspected terrorists at Gitmo, while 37 percent oppose it. Support is down from 65 percent three years ago (down 12 points among Democrats and nine points among independents, while steadier among Republicans). Two-thirds are confident the rights of these prisoners are being adequately protected, although far fewer, 21 percent, are "very" confident of it.

Partisan and ideological divisions arise in these latter results. Eighty-one percent of Republicans and 73 percent of conservatives favor holding prisoners at Gitmo; just 41 percent of Democrats and 36 percent of liberals agree. More than eight in 10 Republicans and conservatives think the detainees' rights are being adequately protected; barely over half of Democrats, and just under half of liberals, share that view.

Republicans and conservatives also are far more likely than their counterparts to say the detentions have made the United States safer.

OTHER GROUPS -- Views on the protection of detainee rights at Guantanamo play a role in opinions on use of the facility. Among people who are confident that such rights are being protected, more than seven in 10 support holding prisoners there; among those not confident, seven in 10 are opposed.

Similarly, people who are very confident the prisoners' rights are being protected are more likely to support continuing to hold them without charges.

Perhaps because of the location of the 9/11 attacks, Northeasterners are more likely to favor holding suspects at Guantanamo -- more than two-thirds do, compared with 58 percent of Midwesterners and Southerners and fewer than half of Westerners. Still, sizable majorities across regions oppose holding them there without charges.

METHODOLOGY -- This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone June 22-25, 2006, among a random national sample of 1,000 adults. The results have a three-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.

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