Such toleration is not universal or unlimited, however: In several
countries, a majority of respondents believe the government has the
right to limit certain political and religious views.
Rights of Racial and Ethnic Minorities
Large majorities in all countries polled believe that "people of
different races and ethnicities should be treated equally," with the
highest levels of support recorded in Mexico (94 percent), China (90
percent), United Kingdom (87 percent) and Kenya (80 percent). (The U.S.
figure was 79 percent). India had an exceptionally high proportion (30
percent) who responded that an employer should be allowed to reject
jobseekers on the basis of race or ethnicity (though a plurality did
oppose such practices). In addition, only in India did less than half of
the public favor government action to "ensure that racial and ethnic
minorities are treated equally."
Economic and Social Rights
Large majorities in every country say their government should be
responsible for taking care of the poor and for ensuring that citizens
can meet their basic needs for food, healthcare, and education. In a
2008 WPO poll of twenty-one countries, an average of 87 percent of
populations surveyed agreed that the government should ensure that
citizens have access to a minimum amount of food, and no country varied
significantly from this support. Although below the global average, a
robust three-quarters of Americans (74 percent) agreed.
Freedom from Torture
As the U.S. Congress continues to debate
a new terrorist detention bill with controversial provisions including
"mandated military custody for certain al-Qaeda suspects...and the
extension of onerous restrictions on the release or transfer of
detainees held at Guantanamo," it is also valuable to consider public
attitudes on torture and the treatment of detainees.
Globally, solid majorities, including in the United States, support
having international rules against torture. However, publics including
the U.S. population, are more divided in the case of terrorists who have
information that could save innocent lives.
A 2009 WPO poll that inquired what torture techniques should be
permissible "if the detainees know details about future attacks in the
United States" recorded the following results among Americans:
Majorities opposed forcing the detainee to take stressful
positions (50 percent), using threatening dogs (60 percent), exposing
the detainee to extreme heat and cold (61 percent), making the detainee
go naked (70 percent), holding the detainee's head under water (77
percent), punching or kicking the detainee (82 percent), and applying
electric shocks (79 percent). However, views were divided on bombarding
the detainee with loud music and two methods--sleep deprivation and
keeping a hood over detainee's head for long periods of time--received
modest majority support (53 percent and 54 percent, respectively).
U.S. support for whether torturing suspected terrorists is ever
justified has actually risen in recent years. In a May 2009 AP/Gfk poll,
52 percent considered that it can be justified, while a May
2011 poll of the same question registered an 8 point increase in support
to 60 percent (in the immediate aftermath of the killing of Osama bin
laden). On the other hand, only 37 percent of Americans support
"allow[ing] law enforcement officials to hold people suspected of links
to terrorist organizations in jail without bail for an unlimited amount