For Immediate Release

World Citizens Reject Torture,
Global Poll Reveals

media contacts methodology research partners
questionnaire detailed results globescan website
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A majority of people around the world are opposed to torture even if its purpose is to elicit information that could save innocent lives from terrorism, according to a BBC World Service poll of more than 27,000 people in 25 different countries.

The poll shows 59 percent of the world's citizens are unwilling to compromise on the protection of human rights, however 29 percent think governments should be allowed to use some degree of torture in order to combat terrorism.

Most Americans (58%) are against any use of torture. But opposition to torture in the US is less robust than in Europe and the percentage of Americans favouring the practice in certain cases (36%) is one of the highest among the 25 countries polled.

Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes, notes, "The dominant view around the world is that terrorism does not warrant bending the rules against torture."

GlobeScan President, Doug Miller, adds, "The poll reveals a public opinion climate in which human rights violations by governments are likely to cause outrage, especially in Western Europe."

There is however somewhat less support for outlawing torture in several countries that have suffered terrorism attacks or political violence including India, where slightly more respondents (32%) favour relaxing the rules against torture than not (23%).

The largest percentage endorsing torture was found in Israel. Forty-three percent say some degree of torture should be allowed, though slightly more, (48%) think the practice should be prohibited.

Italians are the most opposed to the use of torture with 81 percent against, followed by three-quarters of respondents in Australia and France, 74 percent in Canada, 72 percent in the UK, and 71 percent in Germany.

Countries polled were Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine, and the US.



Respondents were asked the following question:

Most countries have agreed to rules that prohibit torturing prisoners. Which position is closer to yours?

  • Terrorists pose such an extreme threat that governments should now be allowed to use some degree of torture if it may gain information that saves innocent lives.
  • Clear rules against torture should be maintained because any use of torture is immoral and will weaken international human rights standards against torture.

The poll found strong support for the latter position in favour of upholding the rule against torture with a majority in 19 countries endorsing it, plus another 5 with a plurality. There is however, somewhat less support for outlawing torture in several countries that have suffered terrorist attacks or political violence including India, where a slight plurality favours relaxing the rules against torture.


Editor's Note:

All of the countries surveyed are parties to the Geneva Conventions that contain Article 3 forbidding torture as well as other forms of abuse. All countries surveyed are also parties to the more recent Convention Against Torture that goes further in how explicitly it prohibits torture, except India, which has signed but not yet ratified it.


Italians (81%) are the most opposed to the use of torture in all circumstances and the British are among the highest with 72 percent opposed and 24 percent in favor. Other countries with high numbers favouring a total ban are in Australia and France (75% in both) as well as Canada (74%) and Germany (71%).


Only in India do more respondents favour allowing "some degree of torture:" Thirty-two percent say using physical coercion is sometimes permissible a bit more than the 23 percent who say existing rules should be maintained. Nearly half of Indian respondents (45%) favour neither position or did not answer. India has a long history with terrorism and political violence, including a 2001 attack on its Parliament. This survey was completed before July 11, 2006 when terrorists bombed seven crowded commuter trains in Mumbai. Interestingly, there is no difference in the views of Hindus and Muslims in India on this question.

The largest percentage endorsing torture is found in Israel where 43 percent say that some degree of torture should be allowed, though slightly more (48%) say the practice should be prohibited. Israeli responses vary significantly by religion. A majority of Jewish respondents (53%) favour allowing governments to use torture to obtain information while 39 percent want clear rules against it. In contrast, Muslims in Israel (who represented 16 percent of total responses in that country) are overwhelmingly (87%) against any use of torture. No other country polled has a majority of any major religious subgroup that favours allowing torture.


In addition to India and Israel, there were four other countries where those rejecting torture fell short of a majority: Russia (43% reject torture, 37% accept), Nigeria (49% reject, 39% accept), China (49% reject, 37% accept), and Mexico (50% reject, 24% accept).

In the United States, most Americans (58%) oppose any use of torture. But opposition to torture in the United States is less robust than in Europe and the percentage of Americans favouring the practice in certain cases (36%) is one of the highest among the 25 countries polled.

There is little variation in the worldwide averages by income or education. But support for a ban on torture increases slightly with age: 57 percent of those younger than 35 years old were against torture compared to 61 percent of those 35 and older. Men are five points more likely to accept some use of torture than are women. As for religion, Israel is the only country where statistically significant differences exist between major religious groups on this question.

In total 27,407 citizens in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine and the United States were interviewed between 26 May and 6 July 2006. Polling was conducted for the BBC World Service by the international polling firm GlobeScan and its research partners in each country. In 7 of the 25 countries, the sample was limited to major urban areas. The margin of error per country ranges from +/-2.5 to 4 percent. For more details, please see the Methodology section or visit www.globescan.com or www.pipa.org.

For detailed country results please see page 6


 

Media Contacts

For media interviews with the participating pollsters, please contact:

Doug Miller, President
GlobeScan Incorporated, London
+44 20 7958 1735
(Mobile: +44 78 999 77 000)
Doug.Miller@GlobeScan.com 

Steven Kull, Director
Program on International Policy Attitudes, Washington
+1 202 232 7500
(Mobile: +1 301 254 7500)
Skull@pipa.org

GlobeScan Incorporated is a global public opinion and stakeholder research firm with offices in Toronto, London, and Washington. GlobeScan conducts custom research and annual tracking studies on global issues. With a research network spanning 50+ countries, GlobeScan works with global companies, multilateral agencies, national governments, and non-government organizations to deliver research-based insights for successful strategies. 

The Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) is a joint program of the Center on Policy Attitudes and the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland. PIPA undertakes research on attitudes in publics around the world on a variety of international issues and publishes the website/webzine WorldPublicOpinion.org.

The BBC exists to enrich people's lives with great programmes and services on television, radio and online that inform, educate and entertain. Its vision is to be the most creative, trusted organization in the world. BBC reporters and correspondents at home and abroad can be called on for expert coverage across a huge range of subject areas. With over sixty foreign bureaux, the BBC has the largest newsgathering operation in the world. BBC World Service provides international news, analysis and information in English and 32 other languages.