The survey was conducted March 22-28 by Reuters/Ipsos, who asked respondents whether torture can be justified “against suspected terrorists to obtain information about terrorism.” Approximately 25% said it is “often” justified while 38% answered that it is “sometimes” justified. Only 15% of those surveyed said that they believe torture should never be used.
The use of torture is exceedingly popular among Republicans, with 82% responding that torture is “often” or “sometimes” justified, versus just over half — 53% — of Democrats.
Terrorism has been a subject of heavy focus in the US presidential race, following large scale attacks in Paris, San Bernardino, and Brussels. Two thirds of those polled also believe that there will be another terrorist attack on US soil within the next six months.
Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has been extremely supportive of the use of torture, stating that he intends to bring back waterboarding, a means to simulate drowning, which many contend violates the Geneva Conventions. He has also stated he would “bring back a hell of alot worse.”
While Trump’s assertions may have seemed outlandish to those in the media, the new poll suggests that the majority of the population may actually welcome his plans.
“The public right now is coping with a host of negative emotions,” Elizabeth Zechmeister, a Vanderbilt University professor who has studied the link between terrorist threats and public opinion, said. “Fear, anger, general anxiety: (Trump) gives a certain credibility to these feelings.”