Americans feel differently about torture when they're asked about the specifics. Few think society has made progress on gun violence since 2012. And the polls mostly predicted the winners in 2014. This is HuffPollster for Monday, December 15, 2014.
AMERICANS DIVIDED ON USE OF TORTURE, BUT LESS SUPPORTIVE OF HARSHEST TACTICS - HuffPollster: "Americans are more likely than not to say torture is sometimes justified, but are less likely to support some of the specific tactics used against detainees by the CIA, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds….A 47 percent plurality of Americans say it's possible to fight terrorism without the use of torture, while 30 percent say it's impossible and 23 percent aren't sure. But 48 percent of Americans say the use of torture against suspected terrorists is always or sometimes justified, greater than the 42 percent that say that it's rarely or never justified. Other polling has found similar results, with Americans' willingness to accept the use of torture rising over the past seven years….Asked specifically about some of the details mentioned in the report, Americans were less supportive. Just two of the nine tactics mentioned in the poll, sleep deprivation and slapping or punching a detainee, were considered more acceptable than unacceptable….A majority agreed it's unacceptable to threaten detainees with physical or sexual violence, to keep them inside a coffin-sized box for several days, or to threaten to hurt their family members. By far the widest condemnation, however, was reserved for the use of 'rectal hydration,' or pumping food into a detainee's anus -- a practice 73 percent of Americans said was unacceptable." [HuffPost]
Most consider waterboarding torture - Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Anthony Salvanto, and Fred Backus: "In the wake of last week's release of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the CIA's detention and interrogation program, 69 percent of Americans consider waterboarding to be torture, but 49 percent think aggressive interrogation tactics like waterboarding are sometimes justified. 36 percent think they are not justified….The percentage who thinks these tactics are justified has risen slightly from three years ago….President Obama banned the use of waterboarding and several other aggressive interrogation methods in January 2009. However, 57 percent of Americans think waterboarding and other aggressive interrogation techniques are still being used by the CIA." [CBS]
FEW SEE PROGRESS ON GUN VIOLENCE SINCE NEWTOWN - HuffPollster: "Two years after the Newtown school shootings, just 9 percent of Americans think the U.S. has gotten better at preventing gun violence, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds. Sixty-three percent say American society's ability to prevent gun violence hasn't changed, while 18 percent say it's gotten worse since 2012. By a 20-point margin, 47 percent to 27 percent, Americans say most mass shootings in the United States could be prevented….Like opinions on gun control policy, opinions on gun violence more broadly are often divided along party lines. Just a fraction of either party -- 7 percent of Democrats and 9 percent of Republicans -- think society is better at handling gun violence than it was in 2012, but 32 percent of Democrats, and just 10 percent of Republicans, think it's gotten worse. Democrats are about twice as likely as Republicans to worry at least somewhat about being personally affected by gun violence or a shooting in their community, while Republicans are twice as likely to say shootings get too much media coverage." [HuffPost]
-Harry Enten examines the slip in support for gun control. 
2014 POLLS PREDICTED WELL - Eric McGhee: "Before the election, I suggested that, despite lots of concerns about increasing bias in modern polling, poll averages had actually been getting better at predicting the correct winner over time. To make that point, I showed a graph of Brier scores from the last 12 election cycles. Lower scores indicate better predictions, and Brier scores have definitely been falling. Moreover, the drop seems related to the volume of polls in each cycle....[The] anti-Republican skew [in the 2014 polling]...made almost no difference for predicting the winners. The graph below updates the one from my earlier post, with the numbers from 2014 added in and all polls up to Election Day included in the calculations (the earlier graph stopped at one week before). The Brier score was a little higher (worse) this year than in some other recent years, but we are still clearly in a world of better accuracy." [WashPost]
2014 TURNOUT WAS GOOD BUT NOT ENOUGH FOR HAGAN - Nate Cohn: "Did [Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.)] lose because of weak turnout? The answer highlights the seemingly contradictory lessons of the 2014 midterm elections. If the electorate had been as young and diverse as it was in the presidential election year of 2012, Ms. Hagan would have won — but she still drew a stronger turnout than Democrats received in the 2010 midterms. Ms. Hagan probably didn’t perform well enough to win under anything but the most favorable turnout situation possible for a midterm electorate...Lower youth turnout, not lower black turnout, was mainly responsible for the whiter share of the electorate. Black turnout and white turnout were nearly equal after adjusting for age, although the turnout rate among young black voters (who may be registered at disproportionately high rates) was low and the turnout among black baby boomers exceeded turnout among white baby boomers." [NYT]
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MONDAY'S 'OUTLIERS' - Links to the best of news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:
-Amy Walter reports on the growing optimism about the economy and wonders if it will last. [Cook Political]
-Nate Cohn highlights the dramatic reaction by Latino Americans to President Obama's immigration move. [NYT]
-Gallup reviews four areas where black and white Americans differ on race. [Gallup]
-Brendan Nyhan ponders why Americans pine for a "leader who will magically bring consensus and unity to our politics." [NYT]