Drone war: 54% of Britons support targeted killing of terrorists – poll
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
A majority of British citizens support their government helping the
US locate and eliminate known terrorists with drone strikes abroad and
in the UK, according to a new survey, despite growing controversy over
civilians killed by drones.
54 percent of those surveyed said they support killing
individual terrorists abroad, and 31 percent indicated they were
against it. The joint survey was conducted by the University of
Surrey's Centre for International Intervention and defense think
tank the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), in collaboration
The poll focused on reports that the UK has been helping the US
locate and kill people deemed terrorists. Survey participants were
shown the following text: “It was recently reported that the UK
Government might be passing information to US authorities to help
them carry out missile strikes from unmanned aircraft called
'drones' to kill known terrorists overseas in countries like
Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.”
When the survey guaranteed that no civilian lives would be lost
in the process and the drone strike would prevent an attack on the
UK, support rose to an overwhelming majority of 75 percent. A
further 52 percent of those surveyed expressed support for
eliminating known terrorists in the UK, and 57 percent of
responders favor targeting kidnappers and pirates.
Data from RUSI survey.
However, when the risk to civilian lives was higher, support
dropped: If two or three innocent lives might be lost then support
dropped to just 43 percent, and if 10 to 15 civilians might be
killed then 32 percent supported the strike, the survey found.
Women and younger participants were generally less supportive of
drone strikes than men and those over 60.
Responders remained divided over the question of whether drone
strikes result in better security in the West, with 32 percent
saying that drones strengthen security by eliminating terrorists,
while 31 percent said that security was being undermined by turning
locals against the west.
Rehman Chishti, Tory MP for Gillingham and Rainham, expressed
concern over the UK’s current drone strike policy.
“There is currently a cloud of secrecy over the policy, rules
and procedures for drone strikes and the Government needs to
explain what they are,” Chishti told the Huffington Post.
"Currently 74 percent of Pakistanis see the United States as an
enemy and the lack of clarity fosters anti-Western sentiments,
which could be a danger to our own security.”
In the US, 65 percent of Americans support drone strikes carried
out by their country against suspected terrorists abroad, according
to a Gallup poll released on Monday.
US drone strikes abroad have been widely criticized by many
Members of the European Parliament stated earlier this month
that the US was putting global stability and international order at
risk by pursuing targeted drone strikes against suspected
At least 3,000 people, including a large number of civilians,
are said to have been killed by the controversial CIA drone program
in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen since 2004, the Parliamentarians
Network for Conflict Prevention reported.
Earlier in March, the UN warned that US drone strikes in
Pakistan violate the country’s sovereignty. According to the Bureau
of Investigative Journalism, some 474 to 881 civilians, including
176 children, have been killed by the strikes, and another 1,300
In January, the UN began an investigation into civilian
casualties from drone strikes and other targeted killings in
Pakistan, as well as in several other countries. Its conclusions
are expected later in October.