A reader downplays these findings:
Sure, it's depressing that over half of the respondents of all ages fail to see the immorality of torture in all circumstances. But have you ever listened to the moral reasoning of 12 and 13 year olds? (Youth was defined as kids ages 12-17.) I don't think this tells us much at all about our future being in the hands of sadistic wack jobs. Frankly, I'm excited that four out of ten at that age saw torture as unacceptable.
While I'm no fan of torture, I think you might be a bit off-base in your analysis.
Children and adolescents have a less developed sense of right and wrong than adults – that's why we sentence youth offenders differently and why civilized countries don't execute them. I imagine if you asked my seven year old the same question, he'd come down on the pro-torture/killing of captives side of things. But it's not because he's been warped by Bush and his minions; it's because he's all Id. Age and maturity explain the discrepancy far better than any long-term effects of Bush policy.
Now, if the pre-9/11 numbers for youths were lower than they are now, you might have a point. However, it seems unlikely anyone thought to ask the question, which is in itself an indictment of the Bush policy.
This past weekend I judged a high school moot court competition. The kids were arguing a case about Gitmo. At one point during the day one of the groups of kids stated that the Army Field Manual permits waterboarding. I stopped them and asked them specifically if the Army Field Manual permits waterboarding and they said yes. When the opposing counsel argued, I asked the same question. These people were arguing for Hassan and I expected them to set the record straight. Instead they also said yes.
I set the record straight when I had an opportunity to make comments later, but the experience has bothered me all week. I blame movies. Any kids brought up on a diet of your typical anti-terror movie and "24" would think that not only is torture permitted, but that it is frequently used and effective.