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Poll: Most Americans Say Keep Gitmo Open

In the wake of the Christmas Day terror attempt, President Obama recommitted to his promise to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Yet more than half of Americans think the U.S. should continue to keep the facility open, a new CBS News poll shows.

Fifty-five percent of Americans think the prison should be kept open, according to the poll, which was conducted from Jan. 6 – 10. Last November, by contrast, 50 percent of Americans thought the prison should remain open, and just 46 percent thought so in February 2009.

Just 32 percent of Americans think the facility ought to be closed and the prisoners there transferred somewhere else. That figure is down from 39 percent in November and 44 percent last February.

Three in four Republicans want Guantanamo kept open, while just a third of Democrats do.

After the attempted Christmas attack put new emphasis on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Mr. Obama suspended the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to Yemen, home to nearly half of the 198 terror suspect detainees currently held at Guantanamo Bay.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on CBS' "Face the Nation" that detainees should not be released into a country with an al Qaeda presence. But she added that keeping the prison open serves as a recruiting tool for the terrorist group. The government is exploring transferring at least some of the detainees to a federal prison in Illinois.

While most Americans disagree with Mr. Obama about the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison, 57 percent nevertheless approve of the way the Obama administration responded to the attempted Christmas terror attack.

Fear of another terrorist attack has increased since that incident. Now, 26 percent think another attack on the United States within the next few months is very likely, up from 12 percent just before the latest incident.

Few Americans – just 19 percent -- think the U.S. intelligence agencies are doing all they could to monitor the actions of suspected terrorists. More than three in four say they could be doing more.

Mr. Obama's approval rating on handling terrorism has not changed much since he took office. Now, 52 percent approve of the job he is doing handling terrorism, and 35 percent disapprove.

The president's overall approval rating has hit an all-time low, though that mostly seems attributable to concerns about his handling of domestic issues like health care.

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CBS News Poll Database
Read the Complete Poll

This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,216 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone January 6-10, 2010. Phone numbers were dialed from random digit dial samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher.

This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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