Poll: Most Oppose Closing Guantanamo Bay Detention Center

Americans overwhelmingly opposed to closing Gitmo detention center.

ByABC News
June 2, 2009, 10:24 AM

June 1, 2009 -- WASHINGTON — Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to closing the detention center for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay and moving some of the detainees to prisons on U.S. soil, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds.

By more than 2-1, those surveyed say Guantanamo shouldn't be closed. By more than 3-1, they oppose moving some of the accused terrorists housed there to prisons in their own states.

The findings underscore the difficult task President Obama faces in convincing those at home that he should follow through on his campaign promise to close the prison in Cuba, especially in the absence of a plan of where the prisoners would go.

In many parts of the world, however, Gitmo has become a symbol of U.S. arrogance and abuse, and Obama has cited its closure as a way to lay the foundation for better relations. He is scheduled to deliver a major address aimed at the Muslim world on Thursday from Cairo.

It is one of the few subjects on which most Americans side with the views of the Bush administration over its successor.

"Coming up on eight years after Sept. 11, fear remains, and fear is politically potent," says political scientist Paul Freedman of the University of Virginia, who studies public opinion. "When it comes to the issue of terrorism … people are inclined to err on the side of that fear."

Former vice president Dick Cheney said Monday that Obama made "a mistake" in promising to close the facility by the end of the year.

"I think it's going to be very difficult," he said at a National Press Club luncheon, given the reluctance of U.S. allies and citizens to accept its prisoners. "These are bad actors. These are the worst of the worst."

In a speech last month, Obama said the nation's "Supermax" prisons could be relied on to hold detainees. Government lawyers are reviewing the status of the 240 prisoners at Guantanamo to determine whether they should be tried in federal court or before a military tribunal, released overseas or held without trial.