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Poll: Most Oppose Terror Trials in Open Court

The Obama administration appears to be going against public opinion with its decision to try five terrorist suspects – including self-proclaimed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – in a civilian trial in New York City.

A new CBS News poll finds that only 40 percent of Americans believe suspected terrorists should be tried in an open criminal court. Fifty-four percent say such suspects should be tried in a closed military court.

There is a correlation between where people stand on the trials and their political beliefs. Roughly six in ten Republicans and independents favor closed military trials, while 54 percent of Democrats prefer open civilian trials.

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The suspects have been held at the Guantanamo Bay prison facility, which the Obama administration has promised to close. Americans have become increasingly resistant to doing so, according to the poll: fifty percent now say the facility should be kept open, while 39 percent back the administration's plan to close it.

Americans were more split in February, when 46 percent wanted the facility kept open and 44 percent wanted it closed.

A majority of Democrats want to see the Guantanamo Bay facility closed, while a majority of Republicans and independents want it kept open.

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This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,167 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone November 13-16, 2009. 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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