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. mike

    they polled mostly liberals...

    May 11, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  2. A Mom

    Speaking of scripture...When David killed Goliath there was celebration. David cut Goliath's head off and brought it back for all the people to see. Far from politically correct by today's standards. Like Lincoln said when asked, "whose side is God on?". His answer was, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right”.

    I think the question comes down to this: not if it is right or wrong to celebrate because bin Laden was killed but whether or not it is right that we are involved in a war against terror.

    May 11, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  3. sonia

    We can be relieved that Osama Bin Laden is gone but we shouldn't cheer.

    May 11, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • spongekill

      Thank you, exactly.

      May 11, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  4. jfjlksdjdf


    May 11, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  5. TheMissingSock

    As a Canadian, I found your displays that day... disgusting. Your country looked like the middle east did years ago when they celebrated your deaths in the streets.... did you really want to be seen like that? "The same" as your enemies? "The same" as the barbarians out there?? I would have thought you would all know better, better then to act like the monsters you have fought so hard against. When I heard the news, I rejoiced, I rejoiced and celebrated the good work of your Navy seals, your president, and your intelligence community.... I did not rejoice in the death of another human no matter whom it was. Its funny how America always likes to talk "freedom, democracy, and rule of law" and yet, if anything upsets you.... you throw out your "morals" that you like to say your country was built on, but never actually enforce on yourselves unless convienent. Law and Order!.. but screw that guy!

    May 11, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • Jonathan

      Haha! Canadians were there too. All white faces from Europe look same. French men are ugly though.

      May 11, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • B-Dog

      As you are a Canadian it doesn't surprise me that you can't tell the difference between celebrating the death of a mass murderer... and celebrating when 3,000 INNOCENT people were killed.

      May 11, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • Artist

      With all due respect you are Canadian so your opinion is not relevent and again YOU ARE CANADIAN???? As for the death of Bin Ladden, he got off too easy. I did not celebrate, rather I felt a great relief with a smile.

      May 11, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • vasechek

      right, only americans are allowed to have an opinion and then, only when they agree with yours? gimme a break. and then when the going gets tough (or expensive) we start asking NATO to help...
      because of you three we're rightly viewed as a joke of a nation by others.

      May 11, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • Artist


      right, only americans are allowed to have an opinion and then, only when they agree with yours? gimme a break. and then when the going gets tough (or expensive) we start asking NATO to help...
      because of you three we're rightly viewed as a joke of a nation by others.
      I assume you are speaking about Nato and what is going on in the ME right now? We stepped down and NATO is a joke. Also I don't believe we shoudl be invovled in the ME. They need to fight for their own freedom. We need to stop being the world police. Let Israel fend for itself. Let them kill each other in the ME.

      May 11, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • vasechek

      this is precisely the sentiment before WW2. it's never a problem untill it starts affecting you, and then it becomes everyone's problem and you rally hell and heavens to raise up and support you.
      there is a reason we have allies. there is a reason some people are willing to take suffering and death for others. even if you fail to understand it...

      May 11, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  6. Jonathan

    One of the Navy Seals skid over Osama's poo and pulled the trigger or else they were planning to get him alive. It is an Arab tradition to secure doors with their own poo.

    May 11, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • Rogers

      Then what do they use for tooth paste?

      May 11, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
  7. Mike

    Was the U.S. right in taking out Bin Laden? Absolutely. He was a mass-murdering, terrorist, mastermind, who would surely have orchestrated the deaths of many more innocent civilians, whatever their race, creed or religion. Sadly, there are many more OBL's out there who will take his place.
    But, cheering at OBL's demise, in fact at any human being's death, is unfortunate.
    I try to think of this in two ways. Firstly, OBL was once an innocent, someone's baby, their child, and along the way, something went seriously wrong with him. It happens. We have seen it before, and we will surely see it again. I can only but feel deep sorrow and frustration that somebody's soul can be so deeply perverted as to believe there is any good that comes out of the mass murder of civilians for a cause.
    The other way I look at it is this. The SEAL Teams that went out there, who know what it is like to pull a trigger, to take casualties, and look death in the face, operate with bravery and honour. Obama has also shown that he is a man of honour in not wanting to release the picture of OBL's skull torn body onto every front page for all to indisciminately view, whether man, woman or child.
    Rather than cheer the demise of OBL, it is better that we respectfully honour the fallen from 9-11 and their families, and every man and woman who serves in the Armed forces to maintain our freedom and safety.

    May 11, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
    • B-Dog

      Not all death is sad!
      Sometimes death is a relief from a sickness.... like for a long suffering cancer patient.
      Sometimes death is funny, like when someone gets hit by a train (How do you not notice a train?!) or goes out to take Tsunami pictures and gets swept away by the Tsunami.

      May 11, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • Jennifer

      I totally agree with you Mike.

      May 11, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
  8. johnny

    "Do not [just] rejoice when your enemies fall [dance and sing in the streets]"

    May 11, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  9. Badpav

    Survey American's who are card carrying Green party members, maybe...

    May 11, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  10. MW in OR

    People being polled are just trying to be PC. Let's rejoice!

    May 11, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  11. Sam

    It is what it is, he's dead, he had it coming..no real need to celebrate it..who care what the poll say's it's all hog wash anyways...

    May 11, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  12. Still Cheering

    The people who say it's not right are probably terrorists lol. It's a great victory for our country. It's like cheering at a football game, you're cheering because the other team lost and your team won. Should we not do that either?

    May 11, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • Guin

      Wow. You are COMPLETELY disgusting.

      May 11, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • vasechek

      pffft so life IS a football game to you... well, don't cry when you get punted and others cheer, then

      May 11, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  13. B-Dog

    This survey was done with ONE THOUSAND PEOPLE, out of a country of 250 million. The sample size is WAY too small. Had you picked the 1,000 people cheering outside of the white house the numbers would be way different.

    May 11, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • Chris

      Yeah, I couldn't help but notice some statistical issues with this article. "60% of Democrats agreed that torture can never be justified, while 53% of Republicans disagreed." This is a really awkward way to state this, and it can give the wrong impression. I think the numbers in here are a little weird...

      May 11, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  14. Frogist

    I just posted my thoughts on this in the Dalai Lama article. But I will repeat them here...
    I am genuinely conflicted about my feelings about Osama Bin Laden's death. I did not think I would feel the relief or sense of finality I felt. And it is difficult for me to reconcile those positive emotions with the death of another human being. I am still trying to figure it out myself. While I did feel some relief, I just didn't feel the joy that some people seemed to feel when I found out he had been killed. I mostly think of the people who died on 9/11. I mostly think of what the families all have said, his death does not bring back our loved ones. I think if we focus our thoughts on them, we might retain some of our humanity and that feeling of celebration might not be present after all. I'm not condemning those who danced in the streets, I'm just saying maybe they might not have danced so readily if they reflected a little more on what prompted his death.
    Also I wonder if this could really come down to our individual stance on capital punishment. I bet those pro-death penalty will consider that event a joyous thing. While those of us who are anti-death penalty will obviously be more tentative to look at his death with celebration.
    But as someone rightly said we hated those in the Middle East when we thought they celebrated 9/11... now we are guilty of doing the same thing to some extent.

    May 11, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • johnny

      With all due respect, you need therapy of some sort.

      May 11, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
    • Badpav

      therapy is how you get this way.

      May 11, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • Jennifer

      I totally agree with Frogist's post. I am extremely happy that this man is no longer a threat but I do not feel joy at his death. I wouldn't feel joy over and celebrate the death of anybody, only the fact that they are no longer able to hurt anyone else ever again. To do so makes us no better than terrorists and their supporters who were dancing in the streets and celebrating 9/11. Seriously, there is no difference. You may think there is, but there isn't.

      May 11, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • B-Dog

      @Jennifer So you are saying... There is no difference between celebrating the death of a mass murderer, and celebrating the deaths of 3,000 innocent people?

      May 11, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
  15. Data1000

    Let me get this straight, Americans believe that torture is always wrong, but believe that their merciful 'God' will send him to hell to be tortured forever?

    May 11, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • Badpav

      Obviously studied theology from a commercial...

      May 11, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
  16. CommonCents

    When people in the middle east protest and burn the flag, effigies, etc., it is broadcast ad-nasuem on every "news" channel. But we are ostracized by the same "news" outlets when some Americans feel the need to express 10 years of frustration by cheering his death. The people that cheered in the street are right. The people that stayed home are right. I don't remember reading a rule book.

    May 11, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  17. MRLUCK

    screw bin laden....now his brother is asking for proof of death ..i guess he is getting tired swimming the arabian sea yelling ....MARCO!!!

    May 11, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • anon69


      May 11, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
  18. rho in AZ

    Cheering a USA victory has a long history of parades and celebrations – different than cheering an individual death. I prefer to see the cheering, of the young people especially, as a celebration of a USA victory.

    May 11, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  19. givemeabreak

    Hell yes we should cheer. What the hell is wrong with Americans? Oh, I forgot, there aren't any anymore... Who cares how he died as long as he is dead? Lucky he got any type of burial. Should have fed him to the dogs.

    May 11, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  20. cheekbrown

    Still sheering Osama's death. Not sorry. 9/11 was too horrific. I'm only sorry that Osama only had one life to give.

    May 11, 2011 at 5:17 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.