Views on the Terror Trials

Nov 17, 2009 12:00pm

Americans divide evenly on whether to try 9/11 suspects in U.S. civilian courts or military tribunals, a split – like so many – driven chiefly by partisan and ideological differences.

Our latest ABC News/Washington Post poll asks whether suspects accused of involvement in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, should be put on trial in the federal court system in the United States or in a military tribunal set up for that purpose. Result: a 47-48 percent split.

The Obama administration last week opted for the former, saying it would move alleged 9/11 planner Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four accomplices from detention in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to be tried in federal court in New York.

The chief divisions on the question, as noted, are political and ideological. Democrats divide by 61-34 percent in favor of federal court trials; Republicans, almost exactly the opposite, 58-36 percent for tribunals. Independents favor tribunals by a narrower 53-42 percent. Ideologically, again, it’s 61-31 percent for the court system among liberals, 57-38 percent for tribunals among conservatives, with moderates dividing exactly in half.

We’ve released results from our latest poll on Sarah Palin and on the president, politics and health care reform. Check back at 5 p.m. when we’ll have fresh results on public views of the war in Afghanistan.

Meantime, further on terror trials…

A CNN/ORC poll released yesterday had some different results than ours; on one hand it found 64-34 percent preference for “a military court run by the U.S. armed forces” over “a criminal court run by the civilian judicial system.” In a separate question, it found 60-37 percent preference for trying the suspects in the United States rather than “in a U.S. facility in another country.”

How to reconcile these? The first question differs from ours in a variety of ways; one that jumps out at me is that it notes that the suspects now are held “at a U.S. military prison in another country,” and doesn’t go on to specify what civilian judicial system it’s referring to – that country’s, or ours. On the other hand, our question doesn’t give a location for tribunals; we saw the issue as a choice between federal court trials here, or military tribunals, wherever.

Another is that these questions ask specifically about Khalid Sheik Mohammed, accused of planning 9/11; ours asked about “suspects accused of involvement” in the attacks. Lastly, our first night of interviews  were done before the administration announced its decision; nonetheless the results that night were essentially identical to our full result.

There are other differences (e.g. military “court” vs. military “tribunal”); the wording and results of these questions follows for your review – and, if you like, comment.

ABC/Post: Would you rather have suspects accused of involvement in the September 11 terrorist attacks put on trial in (the federal court system in the United States), or in (a military tribunal set up for that purpose)?

                11/15/09Federal court      47Military tribunal  48Either (vol.)       2No opinion          3

CNN/ORC: Now here are some questions about Khalid Sheik Mohammed who may be responsible for planning the 9/11 attacks and who is now in custody at a U.S. military prison in another country: If you had to choose, would you rather see Khalid Sheik Mohammed brought to trial in a criminal court run by the civilian judicial system, or would you rather see him tried by a military court run by the U.S. armed forces?

              11/15/09Criminal court   34Military court   64No opinion        2

CNN/ORC: And regardless of which court system you think he should be tried in, if you had to choose, would you rather see Khalid Sheik Mohammed brought to the U.S. to stand trial or would you rather see him tried in a U.S. facility in another country?

                       11/15/09Brought to the U.S.       60Tried in a U.S. facility   in another country      37No opinion                 3

You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus