The May PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey was conducted by Public Religion Research Institute, in partnership with Religion News Service, just days after the news of Osama bin Laden’s death.
Celebrating Osama bin Laden’s Death
Six-in-ten (62%) Americans agree it is wrong to celebrate the death of another human being, no matter how bad that person was. There is strong agreement across party and religious lines.
60% of Americans believe the Bible’s admonition not to “rejoice when your enemies fall” applies to how Americans should react to binLaden’s death. There is strong agreement across party and religious lines.
- Nearly 7-in-10 (69%) of younger people (ages 18-34) believe this scripture passage applies to bin Laden, compared to only 47% of Americans age 65 and older.
Morality and Effectiveness of Torture
Americans are divided on the morality and efficacy of torture. Nearly half (49%) of Americans agree that the use of torture against suspected terrorists in order to gain important information is never justified, compared to 43% who disagree.
- Democrats (60%), religiously unaffiliated Americans (57%), and younger (ages 18-34) Americans (54%) are more likely than other Americans to say torture can never be justified. Among major religious groups, Catholics (53%) are most likely to say torture can never be justified.
- Less than less than 3-in-10 (27%) Americans say harsh interrogation methods gave the United States critical information leading to the capture of Osama bin Laden, 17% say the tactics produced important but not critical information, 21% say they contributed little important information, and 16% say no important information was gathered from torture.
- Women (23%), the religiously unaffiliated (20%), younger Americans (19%), and Democrats (16%) are less likely than other Americans to say harsh interrogation methods provided to critical information.
- Currently 53% say the United States should follow the principle of the Golden Rule and not use any methods on our enemies that we would not want used on American soldiers. Support for this Golden Rule principle is down from 62% in 2008 (2008 American Values Survey).
America’s Image in the World
A slim majority (52%) of Americans say capturing and killing Osama bin Laden will help America’s image in the world, compared to 20% who believe it will hurt America’s image in the world. 13% say it will help in some, hurt in others, and 8% say it will have no effect on America’s image in the world.
bin Laden, Islam and Hell
More than 8-in-10 (82%) Americans agree that bin Laden distorted the teachings of Islam to suit his own purposes, including 60% who completely agree. There is widespread agreement across the American public that bin Laden distorted the teachings of Islam for his own purposes.
- Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Americans agree that bin Laden will be eternally punished for his sins in hell. There is also widespread agreement, although there are some differences in degree of agreement by religion.
- Eight-in-ten white evangelical Protestants agree, including 67% who completely agree that bin Laden will be eternally punished for his sins in Hell. Roughly two-thirds of Catholics and white mainline Protestants agree.
- Nearly half (49%) of the religiously unaffiliated agree that bin Laden will be eternally punished for his sins in Hell.
American Exceptionalism and God’s role in finding bin Laden
A slim majority (51%) of Americans agree God has granted America a special role in human history. There is a nearly 20-point partisan gap on the question of American exceptionalism. Nearly two-thirds of Republicans (64%) and those identifying with the Tea Party movement (64%) say God has a special role for the U.S. in history, compared to only 45% of Democrats. White evangelical Protestants (67%) and minority Christians (63%) are also more likely to believe this than other religious groups.
Only about 4-in-10 (39%) Americans agree that God had a hand in helping the U.S. locate bin Laden, compared to half who disagree. There are large religious and partisan differences on the question of whether God had a hand in locating bin Laden. A majority of white Evangelical Protestants (54%) and minority Christians (51%) agree, compared to only about one-third (34%) of white Mainline Protestants and roughly 4-in-10 (42%) Catholics.
The Tea Party on God, America and Torture
- 64% of Tea party members say God has special role for the U.S. in human history, compared to 64% of Republicans and 51% of the general public.
- 55% of Tea Party members say God had a hand in locating Osama bin Laden, compared to 49% of Republicans and 39% of the general public.
- 66% of Tea Party members DISAGREE that torture can never be justified, compared to 53% of Republicans and 43% of the general public.
- 59% of Tea Party members say harsh interrogation methods provided critical information that led to the capture of Osama bin Laden, compared to only 42% of Republicans and 27% of the general public.
Results from the survey were based on telephone interviews conducted May 5-8, 2011 among a national probability sample of 1,007 adults age 18 and older. The overall margin of error is +/- 3.0.