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Most Voters Still Support Guantanamo Prison, Military Tribunals for Terrorists

Monday, March 14, 2011

President Obama announced as one of his first acts in office that he planned to close the Guantanamo prison camp for terrorists in Cuba, but political and legal complications have brought that effort to a halt. The president announced recently that the facility will remain open indefinitely and that trials of the inmates by military tribunals will resume there. Voters continue to support both decisions.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just 21% of Likely U.S. Voters think the prison at the Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba should be closed, down 15 points from last June and the lowest level of support ever. Fifty-eight percent (58%) say the prison camp should not be closed, while another 21% are not sure what should be done about it. (To see survey question wording, click here.) 

Support for the president’s plan to close the prison camp for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo has fallen since he announced it just after taking office in January 2009. At that time, voters were evenly divided on the idea.

Sixty percent (60%) of voters say suspected terrorists should be tried before military tribunals rather than in U.S. courts. Twenty-seven percent (27%) disagree and favor court trials instead. Fourteen percent (14%) are undecided.

This is consistent with findings in December. Support for the tribunals is up from 54% in July 2008 when the first such military trial began at Guantanamo. 

Despite complaints from human rights groups and others, the United States also will continue to imprison suspected terrorists it considers a danger even if there is insufficient evidence to convict them. Forty-nine percent (49%) of voters favor this policy. Twenty-six percent (26%) oppose it, and 25% are not sure.

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The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters nationwide was conducted on March 10-11, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

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