PHILADELPHIA - Pennsylvania voters want to see Congress take a stronger role in providing checks and balances to the President's actions in fighting terrorism. They also voice a strong preference for candidates who will oppose the President's policies on the treatment of detainees, the use of torture and extraordinary rendition of detainees as well as secret searches of the private records of Americans, according to a recent survey of 600 Pennsylvania registered voters.
"This poll shows that the voters of Pennsylvania care deeply about protecting our fundamental values, which have been under unprecedented attack by the Bush Administration," said Larry Frankel, Legislative Director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "We think it is important that this solid support for civil liberties be a key part of the debate leading up to November's elections. Candidates should know that while the voters of Pennsylvania want protection from terrorism they don't want it at the expense of their Constitutional rights," he said.
Seventy-two percent of the Pennsylvanians who were surveyed reject President Bush's claim that he should be able to take whatever actions are necessary to protect America from terrorists without the checks and balances of Congress and the courts, while only 26 percent believe the President should have the power to take whatever actions he believes are necessary to protect the country from terrorism. Democrats and independents feel strongly that the President should not be acting without the courts and Congress, but the survey also finds that just as many Republicans (52 percent) say the checks and balances are necessary as say the President should have the power to act on his own (46 percent).
Looking to the November elections, Pennsylvania voters express a preference for candidates who oppose policies the President has sought in the name of fighting terrorism. For example:
Extraordinary rendition: 73 percent would vote for a candidate who opposes "allowing government agents to capture people in foreign countries and secretly fly them to other countries, and then torture them to gather information about terrorism," over a candidate who supports it (19 percent);
Torture: 66 percent would vote for a candidate who opposes "the government torturing prisoners to gather information about terrorism," over a candidate who supports it (26 percent);
Military Tribunals: 61 percent would vote for a candidate who opposes "putting detainees at Guantanamo military base on trial in military tribunals at which the suspects are not allowed to see all of the evidence against them and the government could use hearsay evidence obtained during the interrogation of other terrorist suspects" over a candidate who supports this (28 percent); and
Holding detainees without charges: 59 percent would vote for a candidate who opposes "the government holding detainees at Guantanamo military base as it has for the past five years without charging them with a crime or without access to a lawyer," over a candidate who supports this (33 percent).
And, more than half of Pennsylvania voters (58 percent) would be more likely - and 39 percent would be "much more likely" - to support the Congressional candidate who "says the President is wrong when he violates our laws and civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism and we can protect America and at the same time uphold the Constitution" than the candidate who "strongly supports the actions the President has taken in the name of fighting terrorism and says we should be willing to give up some civil liberties to keep Americans safe." Three in ten (30 percent) would be more likely to choose the candidate who supports the President.
The ACLU is a non-partisan organization that does not support or oppose candidates for elective office. The organization works with both Republicans and Democrats in advocating protections for civil liberties. Recently, the ACLU hired two Republican former members of Congress to assist with its lobbying efforts - Bob Barr of Georgia and J.C. Watts of Oklahoma.
The random sample telephone interview survey was conducted for the ACLU by the Washington, D.C.-based polling firm of Belden Russonello & Stewart Sept. 13-25, 2006, and has a sampling error of plus or minus 4 percent.
Results from the poll are available at www.aclu.org/poll. Web users can answer all the poll questions online and compare their answers to the official poll and to other respondents in their state. The polling firm's full research report is available upon request.