Independents thinking independently

CNN reports an encouraging shift in public opinion about whether the Guantanamo Bay detention facility should be closed. When President Obama took office, polling showed that 51 percent of Americans wanted Gitmo shut down. Today, that number is only 39 percent, with 60 percent believing the facility should continue to operate.
The change is driven by a dramatic swing in the views of independent voters. According to CNN, in January 2009 independents split evenly on the issue. Today, three-quarters of them want to keep Gitmo open.
Why the change? The terrorism and attempted terrorism that occurred in the U.S. during 2009 may have something to do with it. But another dynamic also seems to be at work.
In January 2009, Obama’s popularity was at its apex and he was insisting that Gitmo should be closed. Independents presumably were inclined to give Obama the benefit of the doubt back then, and perhaps even to credit his narrative that Gitmo is (or is credibly perceived by foreigners to be) contrary to American values.
Today, independents are no longer inclined to give serious weight to Obama’s views or to the views of the foreigners whose approval Obama covets. Instead, they are thinking for themselves. In this mode, independents fail to see why it is contrary to their values to hold foreign terrorists off-shore in a safe, existing facility where said terrorists are treated humanely and their religion is respected to a fault.


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