Americans Want Stronger U.S. Leadership on Key Human Rights Issues

According to a Human Rights First Study conducted by Harris Poll

Washington, D.C.—Today, Human Rights First released a new study conducted by Harris Poll showing broad bipartisan support among voters for stronger American leadership on key human rights issues, including on efforts to combat hate crimes, human trafficking, and violent extremism worldwide. The poll revealed that a majority of Americans believe the U.S. government is not doing enough to address these and other pressing human rights challenges. The poll’s findings will be discussed today at the organization’s 4th annual Human Rights Summit at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

“This new poll confirms what we at Human Rights First have long believed: Americans hold democracy, freedom, and the rule of law as core values, and we look to our government to lead on these issues globally,” said Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino. “As this poll shows, Americans from across the political spectrum recognize that when the United States lives up to its ideals it can be an enormous force for progress. The poll underscores that advancing human rights is not a special interest; it’s at the core of who we are as a nation.”

The results presented were from two surveys conducted November 12-19, 2015 and November 19-23, 2015.

Only 13% of those polled agreed that the United States was providing enough support for Syrian refugees. The poll also showed that more than half of respondents (55%) believe that the United States should accept Syrian refugees, even after last month’s terrorist attack in Paris.

In addition, two-thirds of Americans agree that detainees who have been cleared for transfer out of the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should be sent to countries that have agreed to take them. The majority of Americans also agree that the U.S. government can fight terrorism effectively without the Guantanamo detention center.

On many other key issues—including ending human trafficking, confronting antisemitism, closing Guantanamo Bay, preventing torture, and combating violent extremism—fewer than one in five say that there is sufficient action from the U.S. government.

Human Rights First commissioned the Harris Poll to examine attitudes and priorities of the American public on a range of human rights challenges and the role the United States should play in addressing them. Sarah Simmons, Vice President & Senior Consultant at Harris Poll, will present and discuss the findings during the organization’s annual Human Rights Summit today.

The theme of today’s Human Rights Summit is “American ideals. Universal values.” The Summit is held each year to mark the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and brings together international human rights activists, U.S. government officials, policy experts, and business and military leaders from across the political spectrum and around the world to discuss contemporary human rights challenges and opportunities for American leadership. Watch the Summit live beginning at 9:00 a.m. here.

The Summit’s panel discussions, keynotes, and plenary sessions will cover a wide array of timely topics, including: the global refugee crisis; eradicating human trafficking from supply chains; preventing the spread of violent extremism; and overcoming authoritarianism. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), USAID Senior Specialist on Labor and Employment Rights Bama Athreya, The Atlantic’s Steve Clemons, The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson, and many other business, government, and non-governmental experts are among this year’s featured speakers. For a full list of speakers, click here.

About the Survey

The studies were conducted by Harris Poll between November 12-19, 2015 and November 19-23, 2015 among 2023 American adults and 2016 American adults online on behalf of Human Rights First.


Published on December 9, 2015


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