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American Public Shifts to View That Prison Guards Were Following Orders

The American public’s opinion about prisoner abuse in Iraq has shifted dramatically away from the idea that the guards were acting on their own at the Abu Ghraib prison to the belief that they followed orders, the University of Pennsylvania’s National Annenberg Election Survey shows.

In polling from last Monday through Sunday night, 48 percent said the guards were “following orders from their commanders,” while 30 percent said they acted “on their own,” and 9 percent said both were true. From May 6 through 9, just two weeks earlier, 47 percent said they acted on their own, 31 percent said they followed orders and 6 percent said both. In the latest polling, 1,997 people were interviewed and the margin of sampling error was plus or minus two percentage points.