A solid majority of the public thinks it is fair to hold accused terrorists at Cuba's Guantanamo Bay military base without charging them, and an almost equal number think the conditions there are acceptable.
In a recent FOX News/Opinion Dynamics poll, Americans were asked to consider — regardless of international law — whether they personally think it is fair or unfair to hold the accused Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorists at the U.S. base without filing charges against them. By a four-to-one margin Americans think it is fair to hold the accused terrorists (68 percent "fair" to 17 percent "unfair").
"When framed in this personal rather than legal context, it’s clear that Americans have no problem with the notion of detaining accused terrorists — particularly those with Taliban and Al Qaeda ties," commented Ernest Paicopolos, a principal of Opinion Dynamics.
Of those saying it is fair to hold the terrorists, 20 percent think it is acceptable to hold them a year or less and 28 percent say they could be held for more than a year. Interestingly, a plurality (40 percent) volunteered the response that it is all right to hold the Guantanamo prisoners indefinitely.
About two-thirds of the public (67 percent) think prison conditions on the military base are acceptable, and a slim majority (55 percent) thinks the U.S. will gain useful information for fighting the war on terror from the prisoners.
Americans are divided on whether they could be an impartial juror at the trial of an accused terrorist. Less than half (45 percent) think they could be impartial, while 48 percent doubt their ability to be neutral.
Even if they doubt their own impartiality, most are confident that the trials will be fair. Fully 72 percent of Americans say they are confident (40 percent "very confident" and 32 percent "somewhat confident") that accused terrorists will receive fair trials in the U.S.
Polling was conducted by telephone July 9-10, 2002 in the evenings. The sample is 900 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of ± 3 percentage points.
1. Even though it is considered consistent with international law, do you personally think it is fair or unfair to hold the accused Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorists at Guantanamo Bay military base without charging them?
2. [IF RESPONSE "1," "FAIR" N=614] Regardless of what is acceptable under international law, how long do you think it is acceptable to hold the prisoners at Guantanamo?
3. Based on what you know, do you think the prison conditions at Guantanamo military base are acceptable or unacceptable?
4. Do you think the United States has or will gain useful information for fighting the war on terrorism from the prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay?
5. Do you think you could truly be an impartial juror at the trial of an accused terrorist?
6. Zacarias Moussaoui, the man accused of being the 20th hijacker, wants to give paid interviews and use the money to pay for his defense. Do you think Moussaoui should or should not be able to sell his story and use the money to pay for his defense?
7. Do you think the federal trials of accused terrorists should be made available on television to the general public?
* 1997 Wording: "Do you think the Oklahoma City bombing trial should be made available on television to the general public?"
8. If the trials of accused terrorists were made available on television, would you watch?
* 1997 wording refers to OKC bombing trial: "If it were made available on television, would you watch?"
9. How confident are you that accused terrorists will receive fair trials in the U.S.?
SCALE: 1. Very confident 2. Somewhat confident 3. Not very confident 4. Not at all confident 5. (Not sure)
10. Do you think attorneys who represent accused terrorists are doing it more because: