Surprise! Poll shows more public concern that fight against terrorism goes too far than not far enough!


THIS seems a bit counterintuitive:

The White House announced today that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will not be held as an “enemy combatant,” and will instead be tried in civilian court. This is a direct rebuff to four Republicans — Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Kelly Ayotte, and Pete King — who had been clamoring for him to be held indefinitely without trial or tried under laws of war in a military commission. Tsarnaev will be charged with conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction against people and property in the United States, resulting in death.

You can expect GOP attacks on the decision to continue in coming days. Meanwhile, civil libertarians such as Glenn Greenwald continued to slam the Obama administration for its decision not to read the accused his Miranda rights. The administration has proclaimed the right to indefinitely detain anyone who it believes has given “substantial” support to Al Qaeda and its affiliates.

Defending the civil liberties of suspected terrorists is generally not considered a popular position. And yet, in a bit of a surprise, a new poll released today finds that a plurality worries more about government trampling constitutional rights while battling terrorism than it does about government not doing enough to fight it. From the Post:

Which worries you more: that the government will not go far enough to investigate terrorism because of concerns about constitutional rights, or that it will go too far in compromising constitutional rights in order to investigate terrorism?

Will not go far enough: 41

Will go too far: 48

Interestingly, despite the fact that the push for Tsarnaev to be held as an enemy combatant is coming from GOP officials, Republican respondents to the poll are even more strongly tilted towards worrying about government compromising constitutional rights, by 56-34. Conservatives tilt this way by 46-41. Democrats also agree by 48-43.

On top of this, the poll was taken from April 17-18 — well after the bombings had taken place, on April 15th.



  1. Pat, do you have poll from the Bush years, with a similar question? I bet the results were different.

  2. I think people are starting to realized that no matter which of our liberties we restrict in pursuit of further safety, we will still be at risk. Someone who is crazy enough or desperate enough will always be able to inflict great harm on the innocent if they choose to do so.

  3. I can’t believe I’m writing this but expdoc is absolutely right. 🙂 We live in a free society and with that freedom comes the risk that some nutjob will bomb a race, shoot up a movie theater, blow up a federal building, etc. That’s always how it’s been and, assuming we retain our liberties, always how it should be. Live your life fully and take your chances. We can’t be in fear of everything.

    As for the “Bush years,” the Bush administration successfully bamboozled people into thinking that we could “win” the so-called “war on terror.” There will always be “terror” and it’s ridiculous to think that it’s a one-time battle that can somehow be won. Sure, the shock of 9/11 probably lulled people into thinking that “yes, restrict my civil liberties in the name of safety!” But, thankfully, we’ve calmed down since then and I’m relatively confident that the Boston bombing will not ’cause us to become a police state.

  4. Brian Opsahl

    Doe’s John MCain even look at the laws before he shoots his mouth off,EVER…!!

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