Poll: Americans Turn Against Targeted Drone Killings of Other Americans

Militant leader Tareq al-Dahab—a brother-in-law of US-born jihadist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki who was killed in a US drone strike last September, sits in the Amiriyah mosque in the town of Rada, 85 miles southeast of the capital Sanaa, on January 22, 2012.

Photo by -/AFP/Getty Images

Via CNN, the new Farleigh-Dickinson poll finally, finally separates two questions about drone warfare. Question one: “In general, do you approve or disapprove of the U.S. Military using drones to carry out attacks abroad on people and other targets deemed a threat to the U.S.?” The answer here, as it’s been in every poll, is a thudding “yes.” Seventy-five percent of people (the sample is 815 registered voters) approve. The lowest approval comes from self-identified Democrats, only 66 percent of whom are warm to drone warfare.

Then there’s this question:

To the best of your knowledge, can the U.S. target U.S. citizens living in other countries with drones, or is that illegal?

When the question’s asked that way, only 24 percent of people answer “yes.” The weakest support comes, again, from Democrats—only 23 percent of them endorse the practice, even though it’s currently being defended by the president they voted for. (This is probably worth remembering when the strawman argument of, “Oh, why aren’t you liberals raging at Obama like you raged at Bush?” surfaces.)

Next week, Sen. Lindsey Graham will introduce a resolution of support for the drone killing of Anwar al-Awlaki.* The collateral death of his American son was what kicked off the current targeted killing debate. I’m betting there are more than 24 Senate votes in support of the Graham bill.

* Correction, Feb. 7, 2013: This post originally misspelled Anwar al-Awlaki’s last name as al-Awaki.