Shortly after 9-11, a third of Americans supported the use of torture to elicit valuable intelligence from terrorists. Since then, those public opinion numbers have fluctuated dramatically, as the graph above shows. There is no way to know exactly which events affected public opinion and by how much. But the interactive timeline below shows some key moments that influenced the public debate about torture. We talked to some of those who were central to the public conversation, which ranged from news coverage, to editorials, to the portrayal of torture in popular culture.
We’d like to acknowledge the Reed College study of U.S. public opinion on torture, which reached some conclusions about those numbers.