Public wary of drone strikes that put hostages at risk

April 28, 2015, 10:00 PM GMT+0

Few Americans approve of drone strikes which risk killing hostages held by terrorist groups

Last week the Obama administration apologized for a botched drone strike in the Afghanistan-Pakistan borderlands that resulted in the death of two western hostages held by al-Qaeda. American Warren Weinstein and Italian Giovanni Lo Porto were killed in the strike which took place in January. Since the 9/11 attacks the United States has conducted hundreds of drone strikes targeting al-Qaeda leaders and the leadership of other militant groups, with over 400 strikes taking place in Pakistan alone.

YouGov's latest research shows that Americans are doubtful of the worthiness of drone strikes when asked about drone strikes which may result in the death of innocent people.

42% of Americans disapprove of drone strikes targeting terror suspects if innocent civilians may also be killed in the attack, something only 29% support. 38% oppose drone strikes if hostages held by the suspected terrorists may be killed, while 28% approve of drone strikes in these circumstances.

There is a significant partisan divide on these two questions, however. While Democrats and independents disapprove of drone strikes which put innocent people at risk, Republicans tend to approve of these strikes. 52% of Democrats and 43% of independents disapprove of drone strikes which may kill civilians, but 45% of Republicans approve. Only 28% of Republicans disapprove of drone strikes which risk killing civilians and 29% disapprove of strikes which may kill hostages.

In principle, however, Americans approve of drone strikes on high-level terrorism suspects overseas. 62% of Americans approve of these drone strikes while 12% disapprove. Support is highest (78%) among Republicans and lowest (56%) among independents.

Americans also tend to approve (49%) rather than disapprove (24%) of drone strikes targetting terrorist suspects who are American citizens.

Full poll results can be found here and topline results and margin of error here.