Limited public support for 9/11 victims law

October 07, 2016, 2:35 PM UTC

Americans support the law allowing the relatives of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi officials, but only narrowly

At the end of September Congress overrode one of President Obama's rare vetoes to ensure that a bill granting victims of terrorism the right to sue foreign officials in American courts could become law. The bill, which is essentially aimed at Saudi officials suspected of complicity in Al-Qaeda operations, had been vehemently opposed by the Obama administration, which is highly concerned about the risk it poses to U.S.-Saudi relations and the legal position of American soldiers and government officials abroad. The Senate voted 97-1 to override the veto, but within days of the vote the leaders behind the law started to have second thoughts about the law and seem set to amend it. 

YouGov's research shows that despite the law's remarkable support in Congress, among the wider public only Republicans are decidedly supportive. Republicans support it 61% to 22%, but independents only narrowly support it 43% to 33%. Democrats tend to oppose the law, 43% to 30%. Support is highest in the Northeast, where 50% of people support the law, higher than any other region.

One of the main criticisms of the law, beyond the risk it poses to U.S.-Saudi relations, is that it breaks international precedent and, theoretically, opens the door to victims of American actions suing American officials in local courts. Americans largely oppose (54% to 16%) a hypothetical Pakistani law which would allow the relatives of civilians killed to drone strikes to sue American officials in Pakistani courts. 

Full survey results available here.