Poll: Are you OK with bombing civilians?

Some people think that bombing and other types of attacks intentionally aimed at civilians are sometimes justified while others think that this kind of violence is never justified. Do you personally feel that such attacks are often justified, sometimes justified, rarely justified, or never justified?

In December of last year, a sample of Americans was asked this question in a poll by the Program on International Public Attitudes, and their responses were:

  • often- 5%
  • sometimes- 19%
  • rarely- 27%
  • never- 46%
  • The remainder said "don't know" or refused to respond.

Recently, a survey by the Pew Research Center (pdf) asked Muslim Americans: 

Some people think that suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets are justified in order to defend Islam from its enemies. Other people believe that, no matter what the reason, this kind of violence is never justified. Do you personally feel that this kind of violence is often justified to defend Islam, sometimes justified, rarely justified, or never justified? 

The responses were:

  • often or sometimes- 8% (15% for those ages 18-29)
  • rarely- 5% (11% for those ages 18-29)
  • never- 78% (69% for those ages 18-29)
  • The remainder said "don't know."

Any statistician will tell you that you have to be cautious in comparing the results of two separate polls, but at the very least, the results above show that when it comes to intentionally attacking civilians, Muslim Americans don't support it any more than Americans at large do.

In my blog post yesterday, I said it was "unsettling" that "one in four young U.S. Muslims surveyed agreed that suicide bombing of civilians was at times acceptable." Well, now I also find it unsettling that 51 percent of my fellow Americans think it's acceptable to intentionally attack civilians. It's not too surprising, however. Many Americans think that dropping nuclear bombs on Japanese civilians during World War II was acceptable, so it makes sense that a sizable fraction think—at least on certain occasions—that bombing civilians is justifiable. Troubling indeed.


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