A majority of Americans believe Edward Snowden, the confessed leaker of the National Security Agency's phone and Internet surveillance program, is not a traitor, according to a poll released Wednesday.
The Quinnipiac poll
conducted June 28-July 8 found that 55 percent of those surveyed believe Snowden is a whistleblower, compared to 34 percent who believe he is a traitor.
Almost every party, gender, income, education and age group shares that view, though black voters are almost equally divided — 43 percent saying he's a traitor and 42 percent calling him a whistleblower.
The survey of 2,014 registered voters showed a significant shift in public opinion about the government's counterterrorism activities, with 45 percent compared to 40 percent who say the government has gone too far in restricting civil liberties. In January 2010, 63 percent said counterterrorism efforts didn't go far enough to protect the country compared to 25 percent who disagreed.
"The massive swing in public opinion about civil liberties and governmental anti-terrorism efforts, and the public view that Edward Snowden is more whistleblower than traitor, are the public reaction and apparent shock at the extent to which the government has gone in trying to prevent future terrorist incidents," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
"The fact that there is little difference now along party lines about the overall anti-terrorism effort and civil liberties and about Snowden is in itself unusual in a country sharply divided along political lines about almost everything. Moreover, the verdict that Snowden is not a traitor goes against almost the unified view of the nation's political establishment," he added.
The poll found that 51 percent of voters support the phone-surveillance program compared to 45 percent who are against it. And 54 percent say it "is necessary to keep Americans safe," though 44 percent say the program "is too much intrusion into Americans' personal privacy."
"Americans' views on anti-terrorism efforts are complicated," Brown said. "They see the threat from terrorism as real and worth defending against, but they have a sense that their privacy is being invaded and they are not happy about it at all."
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