Poll: Majority say Snowden is whistleblower, not traitor

Posted By Kristen Butler, UPI.com  |  July 10, 2013 at 8:43 AM
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A majority of Americans say that National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden is a whistleblower -- not a traitor -- according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.

The poll found that 55 percent of American voters identify Snowden, who leaked documents revealing the NSA's collection of phone and internet data, as a whistleblower, while 34 percent identify him as a traitor.

Numerous members of Congress have blasted Snowden's actions, with House Speaker John Boehner calling him a "traitor." President Obama defended the NSA programs as critical to national security.

Every party, gender, income, education, age and income group regards Snowden as a whistleblower rather than a traitor, with the exception of black voters, with 43 percent calling him a traitor and 42 percent calling him a whistleblower.

In a major shift in opinion, voters say 45 - 40 percent the government's anti-terrorism efforts go too far restricting civil liberties, a reversal from January 2010, when voters said 63 - 25 percent that such activities didn't go far enough to protect the country.

There is a gender gap on counter-terrorism efforts as men say 54 - 34 percent they have gone too far and women say 47 - 36 percent they have not gone far enough.

Some of the largest growth in concern about the threat to civil liberties is among men and Republicans, groups historically more likely to support anti-terrorism efforts. There is now little difference among Democrats and Republicans, who are about evenly divided.

"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," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

"Moreover, the verdict that Snowden is not a traitor goes against almost the unified view of the nation's political establishment," he added.

While voters support the NSA phone-scanning program 51 - 45 percent and say 54 - 40 percent that it "is necessary to keep Americans safe," they also say 53 - 44 percent that the program "is too much intrusion into Americans' personal privacy."

"Americans' views on anti-terrorism efforts are complicated," said Brown. "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."

Quinnipiac University surveyed 2,014 registered voters with live interviewers calling both land lines and cell phones, with a margin of error of 2.2 percentage points.

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