Many civil libertarians worry that President Barack Obama's hawkish policies on national security have silenced liberals who vigorously and vociferously opposed similar or the same policies under President George W. Bush.
An article in Salon points out that the fact that Obama adopts hawkish policies does not just silence many liberals, it turns them into supporters of these policies. New research by political scientist Michael Tesler of Brown University found that white liberal voters were more likely to support policies once they knew Obama supported them than if he did not approve them. The same attitudes were found among African Americans. Issues included gay marriage, the stimulus bill and taxes.
Tesler's research was done just before The New York Times article revealed a secret Obama "kill list" authorizing the use of drones and other means to kill suspected terrorists on the list. Joan Walsh, a senior editor of Salon, asked Tesler to add questions on drones to his ongoing polling.
In a YouGov poll of 1,000 voters, Tesler discovered that those who had liberal views on race and also African Americans showed significantly more support for the targeted killing of suspected terrorists when they were told that this was Obama's policy than when they were not told.
A group of white racial liberals not told about Obama's support showed only 27 percent in favor of the policy but among those told that Obama used such targeted killings support grew to 48%. He found similar differences among African Americans although he cautioned that the sample was small just 60 in each group. Among white racial conservatives support for the targeted killing was greater overall but knowing Obama supported the policy did not change their opinions.
Tesler's profiling of respondents as racial liberals or racial conservatives is explained in some detail in the Walsh article. Tesler simply asked about the president's policy of “killing suspected terrorists without trial.” He did not refer specifically to US citizens. No doubt if he had, he would have found even less support among racial liberals and racial conservatives as well. Nate Silver [Unlink] found that YouGov polls performed "relatively well" before the 2010 mid-term elections, doing better than several other polls.
YouGov polling with the Huffington Post has given somewhat different results than some other polls on the issue of targeted killing. A Washington Post/ABC poll from a year ago found that a whopping 83% of Americans approved of the Obama policy of using drones to target terrorists. This included 77% of liberal Democrats.
This was before a New York Times report about Obama's kill-list, or the release of the white paper giving the justification for targeting US citizens suspected terrorists. A poll done after the New York Times article by Pew found 62% in support and 28% opposed to the policy. Republicans gave higher support at 74% with Democrats at 58%. Americans were the only nationality who supported the drone strikes.
The later YouGov/Huffington Post poll found that 56% of Americans supported drones being used against "high level terrorist leaders" only, while 13% were in favor of their being used against anyone suspected of being associated with a terrorist group.
The poll also showed that only 27% supported drone use if this involved the possibility of killing innocent people. This poll shows that support for the drone program is actually rather limited and not as strong as earlier polls seemed to indicate.