Veterans largely oppose the Obama administration’s decision to trade five Guantanamo detainees for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, according to a new public opinion poll released yesterday.
The poll by USA Today/Pew Research Center, found that 68 percent of the 128 Veterans polled said President Obama made the wrong decision swapping Bergdahl for the Gitmo prisoners. That leaves only 16 percent of Veterans who said they supported Obama’s decision to swap Bergdahl.
“If he was a captured prisoner of war, we wouldn’t be having this discussion,” says Joe Davis, the director of public affairs for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. “He put his teammates in jeopardy, and you absolutely don’t do that in a combat zone.”
Veterans are worried about the precedent set by the transfer, Davis says. “We have a long history in this country of not negotiating with terrorists,” he says. “And we just did.”
Also, the poll found that Americans overall felt that the swapping was more of an issue on the Obama administration’s part, rather than Bergdahl himself. 43 percent said it was wrong for Obama to swap for Bergdahl, while 34 percent said it was the right thing to do.
Thirty percent of those surveyed have a strong opinion of Bergdahl, whose decision to leave his post in 2009 and subsequent capture by the Taliban is under investigation by the Army. Of those, half say they were sympathetic, and half say they are angry with Bergdahl.
Another 59 percent of Americans said that Bergdahl was entitled to the guideline that captive Americans are to be brought home. However, 29 percent said he should not have been held to that standard because he deserted on his own terms.
And in a rare finding, the public supports Congress over Obama on the issue. Americans 2-1 say that the President should be required to inform Congress before he simply swaps prisoners for an American and then hold a press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House.
The poll showed that 30% agree the president should have that flexibility, and 64% say the president should be required to inform Congress first. There’s a significant partisan split: A slight majority of Democrats give deference to the president, while Republicans overwhelmingly side with Congress.
The poll included 1,004 adults was conducted by Princeton Survey Research between June 5-8. And the margin of error is +/-4 percentage points overall and +/- 10 points for Veterans.