CLEVELAND– Ohio voters want to see Congress take a stronger role in providing checks and balances to the President’s actions in fighting terrorism, and voice a strong preference for House and Senate candidates who will oppose the President’s policies on the treatment of Guantanamo 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 Ohio registered voters.
“This poll shows that the voters of Ohio care deeply about protecting our civil liberties, which have been under unprecedented attack by the Bush Administration,” said ACLU of Ohio Executive Director Christine Link. “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 Ohio want protection from terrorism they don’t want it at the expense of their Constitutional rights,” she said. “Those who try to use terrorism as a political wedge issue are in for a rude awakening.”
In this time of an unpopular war and a troubled economy, the survey reports that Ohio voters overwhelmingly view the country as on the wrong track (64 percent) versus going in the right direction (28 percent), and they also voice strong support for the protection of their civil liberties.
Nearly 70 percent of Ohioans 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 judiciary, while only three in ten (28 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 (51 percent) say the checks and balances are necessary as say he should have the power to act on his own (48 percent).
Looking to the November elections, Ohio voters strongly express a preference for candidates who oppose policies the President has sought in the name of fighting terrorism. For example:
- Extraordinary rendition: 71 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 (21 percent);
- Torture: 67 percent would vote for a candidate who opposes “the government torturing prisoners to gather information about terrorism,” over a candidate who supports it (24 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 (29 percent); and
- Holding detainees without charges: 60 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 Ohio voters (52 percent) would be more likely – and 37 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.” A third (33 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. 13-24, 2006, and has a sampling error of plus or minus 4 percent.
The polling firm’s full research report is available by request.
Web users can answer all the poll questions for themselves online at www.aclu.org/poll. Our web survey allows visitors to sort and compare their results with those of the official poll as well as with other respondents in their state.