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Survey: Most Americans say it's wrong to celebrate bin Laden's death
Students at West Virginia University in Morgantown celebrate after hearing the news of Osama bin Laden's death.
May 11th, 2011
03:38 PM ET

Survey: Most Americans say it's wrong to celebrate bin Laden's death

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - Those who cheered outside the White House and Ground Zero on the night Osama bin Laden was killed may have been in the minority.

A survey released Wednesday showed 62% of Americans agree it is immoral to celebrate the death of another human being, "no matter how bad that person was."

When asked separately if a passage from Proverbs 24:17 - "Do not rejoice when your enemies fall" - applies to how Americans should react to the death of Osama bin Laden, 60% of Americans agreed.

My Take: Poll reveals a disposable Jesus

"There's widespread agreement across religion and party lines about how Americans should act in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden," said Robert P. Jones, president of Public Religion Research Institute, which designed and conducted the survey in partnership with Religion News Service.

The survey also found "fairly big disagreement and division over the morality and the effectiveness of torture and harsh interrogation methods," Jones said.

When asked if they agreed that using torture could "never be justified" to get information from suspected terrorists, 49% of those surveyed agreed and 43% disagreed.

"We've been watching these numbers on torture for a while now," Jones said. "They've been fairly consistent for the last few years that the country is fairly evenly divided. The partisan division is really big here, and there are a few religious differences.

"Democrats, maybe not surprisingly, are much more likely to say torture is never justified than Republicans. Younger Americans are much more likely than older Americans to say that torture can never be justified."

According to the survey, 60% of Democrats agreed that torture can never be justified, while 53% of Republicans disagreed.

"One thing we try to do is gauge public opinion but also gauge it in the religious context," Jones said.

To that end they also asked survey respondents if they thought God had a special role for America in human history; 51% answered yes.

Asked if they believed "Osama bin Laden will be eternally punished for his sins in hell," 65% said yes.

The May 5-8 survey was conducted by telephone with 1,007 Americans age 18 and older by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Opinion Research Corporation. The overall margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Islam • United States

soundoff (438 Responses)
  1. really

    I am a former U.S. soldier that served in Afghanistan, and I am currently teaching university in D.C. And to see so many students who when asked if they would ever serve say without a blush, "hell no" celebrating what they lack the courage to do–defend the principles of America–makes clear that these are young cowards who cheer but balk at sacrifice for the republic. Don't cheer my service, forgo your privilege and defend the nation–as I did!

    May 11, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Sanjosemike

      Thank you for your service. Your duty helped to prevent the cancer of encroaching Islam to continue its spread. I agree with your post. I'm delighted and celebrate the fact that you came home safely!

      Please know that a grateful Nation appreciates your service and honor.

      May 11, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  2. Morgan

    Its war time....job well done by our troops and that is it.
    I feel relief but no happiness by an assassination.

    May 11, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  3. RedRyder06

    While I am glad that Osama was brought to justice, that is no excuse to cheer over someone being killed, just as much as we did not appreciate those in the middle east cheering the deaths of the ones lost in the twin towers on 9/11.

    May 11, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  4. NotCelebratingDeath

    Did that survey include a detailed account of how many of the people celebrating were actually celebrating the DEATH of another human being? How about celebrating a task that has been 10 years in the making? How about celebrating a sense of relief that future terrorist attacks have been stopped? Why do you assume that every single person celebrating was ecstatic over the death of a person.

    IMO, people would have been celebrating JUST as much if it was reported that OBL has finally been captured by the U.S.

    May 11, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • elysheba

      That's hitting the nail on the old head! I guess it wasn't okay for our parents to cheer when Hitler died, either? Jeez. What a bunch of new agers.

      May 11, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • vasechek

      celebrating something that came 10+ years too late??? that makes about as much sense as your wild, wishful assertion that the terror has been stopped...

      May 11, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • NotCelebratingDeath

      Until we've been attacked again, this is the biggest step we've taken to subdue future terrorist attacks on our soil. And yes, after searching for the mastermind behind 9/11 for 10 years, it's ok to celebrate finally getting the job done.

      For me, I was celebrating ending the reign of a terrorist. Whether it be by death or imprisonment. Unfortunately for him (maybe fortunately) the prior happened.

      May 11, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • vasechek

      whatever you're drinking / smoking, I want some of that...
      it came 10+ years and countless lives too late. realize how insignificant this tiny little win is now, after all that, and tell me again that we should be pis$ing in our boots in celebrations, while giving relief, comfort, and encouragement to the enemy and alienating our allies.
      i am not even going to touch your "terror has been stopped" nonsense... pure lunacy...

      May 11, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • Frogist

      @NotCelebratingDeath: I think if what you say is true, and I think a lot of it is, it's a sad disconnect there. People were celebrating someone's death even if they didn't acknowledge or realize it. There was a lot of different reasons wrapped up in people's celebrations. I think you are absolutely right in that. But to forget that a human being, and many more, had to die for the celebration to happen is ignoring the obvious.

      May 11, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • ButtChek

      ey! Vasechek..stop sniffing sealant.

      May 13, 2011 at 3:13 am |
  5. elysheba

    The people they spoke to were obviously a bunch of self-righteous cold fish.

    May 11, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • Mike

      Agreed. Pansies.....

      May 11, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
  6. fish

    It doesn't matter if it was right or wrong. It was a natural reaction from people.

    In DC it was mostly college kids who lived 1/2 their lives in a Post 9/11 terror watch. For people at ground zero it was people looking for closure from sudden loss of family members.

    May 11, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • vasechek

      "It doesn't matter if it was right or wrong"
      Seriously???????????????????????????????????????????

      May 11, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • Pretty Serious

      YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      May 13, 2011 at 3:07 am |
  7. Mike

    I was ashamed to be an American when I saw the celebrations.

    May 11, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • Mike

      Not me, I was glad because I knew he could no longer kill innocent people. I respect your opinion though.

      May 11, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
  8. Brandon

    If you practice polling bias you can have whatever outcome to a survey you want.

    May 11, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  9. elysheba

    Give me an f**ng break.

    May 11, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  10. silvereagle

    I am glad the basturd is dead.He murdered over 3000 people.Why didn't his family turn him in.They agreed with what he was doing.Now his pathetic excuse for a son wants to sue America.He better be careful he may get more than he bargains for.POOF! Another one gone.

    May 11, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Frogist

      @silvereagle: The same reason your family doesn't turn you in to a terrorist organization.

      May 11, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  11. sue

    Nobody polled me for my opinion. The only reason I couldn't be in NY or DC to celebrate was because I was visiting in Iowa! I agree...just who was polled. I am hap-hap-happy he is dead and I will NOT apologize!!!!

    May 11, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Johnny

      You're opinion will be provided to you when appropriate.
      Thank you.

      May 11, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  12. Charles Darwin

    No. I cheered the moment I heard it.

    May 11, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  13. jodie sargent

    @Reality is it REALLY necessary in your comments to include the caveat that the president needs to spell out his positions on religon especially Islam. That issue has nothing to do with the topic about whether its appropriate to celebrate another persons death

    May 11, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • sheppard

      jodie – some haters just can't help themselves... giving President Obama kudos for a job well done sticks in their throat... really though, who cares. Go USA!

      May 11, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • Mimi

      Right on! Again …it’s all about race and prejudices no matter what article people respond to. Wake up America! It’s time to be united and more than ever vigilant. OBL’s death is just a reminder that there is more at stake than just politics for our country – Politics and religion divide people- And the truth is that we are a deeply divided nation and are likely to remain one for a long time. ...

      May 11, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      > is it REALLY necessary in your comments to include the caveat that the president needs to spell out his positions on religon especially Islam

      Yes, because OBL's actions are motivated by religion. The same way that abortion doctor killer's actions were motivated by religion. When you believe something solely on authority, you're doing yourself a disservice.

      And that's all religion is. A belief in concepts as being true because some claimed invisible authority says it is.

      May 12, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  14. Kevin

    No cheering here, and no remorse either. I'm not happy you have to kill a man to make the world safe, or to ensure his threat is gone.

    May 11, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  15. Brandon

    Well most Americans are also idiots.

    May 11, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      I think it's fair to say that about half are below median intelligence. 🙂

      May 12, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • vasechek

      bobinator, think about it – that also means that half are ABOVE it!

      May 12, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • ButtChek

      @vasechek, you maybe right but definitely it doesn't include you.

      You maybe crazy!

      May 13, 2011 at 3:17 am |
  16. greg shepherd

    Total nonsense from CNN, as usual. Who did they survey? A thousand pacifists?

    May 11, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • veggiedude

      It was done by telephone. I doubt pacifists are the only ones with phones.

      May 11, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Brandon

      I wouldn't put it past them.

      May 11, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  17. Chris

    I immediately went to a bar and had a couple of drinks. Screw that dude and go USA! It was a long time coming.

    May 11, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • really

      you went to a bar and "screw that dude." Haha... your politics is as smart as your writing.

      May 11, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Chris: "Go USA" I think was what a lot of people were saying when they took to the streets. More "GO USA" and less recognition of the full picture, that people died. Thousands of people died on 9/11 and in the wars that were waged in its wake. From that perspective, I just can't celebrate in the streets saying "Go USA". To me, it's just not appropriate to treat the deaths of so many like it was a basketball game.

      May 11, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • Mike

      Agreed, I drank and celebrated too. No regrets for me...because we were celebrating the absence of evil that night. It's not like OBL was innocent, pour me another too buddy!!!!!!

      May 11, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
  18. trixen

    Fine, so I'll be wrong then. Pour me another shot, bartender! 🙂

    May 11, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • elysheba

      Right on!

      May 11, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  19. Reality

    I did not make a toast or raise the American flag when I heard the news but I have to believe that as I, most global citizens rejoiced in their hearts that bin Laden finally paid for his crimes against humanity. Three cheers and three beers to the US Navy Seals and all the support troops military and civilian who carried out the execution!!

    I am not a fan of Mr. Obama but he got this one right!!! His leadership will make other terrorists have many a sleepless night. Hopefully, he gets the guts someday to say what he really thinks about religions especially Islam.

    May 11, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • Ed

      Ok you wanted a miracle Reality here's one. I AGREE WITH YOU! and you don't believe in miracles jeez

      May 11, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • Ed

      accept for the dig on religion

      May 11, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      > Ok you wanted a miracle Reality here's one. I AGREE WITH YOU! and you don't believe in miracles jeez

      So it's a miracle that we found Osama after 10 years of looking for him? How do you define a miracle? It seems you're willing to attribute a rare event as a miracle.

      And if that's the case, someone winning the lottery was a miracle.

      May 12, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Ed

      @bobinator actually it was a just a joke. The miracle was I agreed with something reality wrote. See a joke nothing serious.

      May 12, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  20. HotAirAce

    So Obama was more in touch with the average American than those celebrating OBL's death...

    May 11, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.