Trying Accused Terrorists: Civilian Court Preferred, Except For Guantanamo Detainees

May 09, 2013, 3:00 PM GMT+0

(Week of 5/4/2013) Americans want Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, to be tried in the civilian court system, not by a military tribunal. The latest Economist/YouGov Poll shows Americans – very narrowly – favoring civilian trials for most other accused of terrorist activities, too.

But there is one exception: although by 67% to 15% the public would like to have those currently held at Guantanamo tried, they want those trials to be held in military tribunals, and not to move those accused into the criminal justice system.

Democrats, liberals and African-Americans would move those trials into the civilian system; women are divided.

Americans differ with President Obama on the value of the Guantanamo detainee facility: the President wants to close it; Americans would keep it open, and by a nearly two to one margin. Almost half would keep it open, and only 28% would shut it down.

The public has favored keeping Guantanamo open for years. When the President said he would close it at the start of his first term, Americans also said they wanted it kept open.

Those who identify with the President’s party – Democrats – are divided about what to do about Guantanamo. 33% of Democrats would continue to operate Guantanamo; 48% agree with the President and would shut it down.

The President gets mildly negative ratings on his handling of the detainee camp. 39% disapprove of his handling of this issue; 28% approve.

Overall, the President continues to get mixed ratings on his overall performance. In this week’s poll, 46% approve of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as President; 46% disapprove.