Poll: Massive opinion swing shows most Democrats criticized Bush-era NSA surveillance, but now love Obama’s version
- 56 per cent of Americans overall say government tracking of phone records is an ‘acceptable way’ to fight terrorism
- That number is heavily weighted toward Democrats, 64 per cent of whom support the NSA
- Under George W. Bush in 2006, just 37 per cent of Democrats agreed with NSA snooping
- Republican support for NSA surveillance also drops now that Obama is in charge, swinging more modestly from 75 per cent to 52 per cent
PUBLISHED: 07:25 EST, 11 June 2013 | UPDATED: 07:32 EST, 11 June 2013
President Barack Obama is enjoying strong support for his NSA’s surveillance program from Democratic partisans. Polls conducted in 2006 and 2013 show a 27 per cent opinion swing among voters in Obama’s party
A poll conducted after news of the NSA’s snooping scandal broke on Thursday shows that more than one quarter of self-identified Democrats disapproved of the agency’s surveillance programs under the George W. Bush administration, but now approve of it under the stewardship of Barack Obama.
The national survey from the Pew Research Center and The Washington Post found that 64 per cent of Democrats approve of the NSA ‘getting secret court orders to track calls of millions of Americans to investigate terrorism.’ Only 34 per cent voiced disapproval.
When Pew asked a similar question in 2006, just 37 per cent found the practice of ‘secretly listening in on phone calls and reading emails without court approval’ acceptable.
That partisan swing of 27 per cent may be related to the differences in the questions’ wording, but it suggests an overall willingness on the part of President Obama’s partisan supporters to approve of the NSA’s secret surveillance now that his administration is in charge.
Republicans, too, saw a shift in support for the NSA’s programs – only in the opposite direction. Support from 75 per cent of GOP supporters in 2006 dwindled to 52 per cent this month.
The political left and right are closer in their opinions of whether NSA is justified in ‘monitor[ing] emails if it might prevent future terror attacks.’ Among Democrats, 53 per cent found that practice acceptable. Republicans showed 45 per cent support.
The Post reported Tuesday morning that ‘sixty-nine percent of Democrats say terrorism investigations, not privacy, should be the government’s main concern, an 18-percentage-point jump from early January 2006.’
The U.S. intelligence controversy has produced strange bedfellows among pundits and political public figures who seldom agree about anything.
Liberal firebrand Michael Moore and Conservative online broadcaster Glenn Beck have both called NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden a ‘hero’ for leaking information about the NSA to The Guardian and the Post.
Fox News host Bill O’Reilly also slammed the NSA, saying its ‘unconstitutional’ surveillance program ‘should be shut down immediately.’
Left-wing television host Bill Maher came down in support of the NSA. ‘I’m okay with it now that Obama’s in office,’ he said on his HBO talk show.
Joining him in support are South Carolina GOP Senator Lindsey Graham, conservative Fox News Channel pundit Charles Krauthammer and former General Electric CEO Jack Welch – none of whom is generally an Obama cheerleader.
‘I view Mr. Snowdens’ [sic] actions not as one of patriotism but potentially a felony,’ Graham tweeted on Monday. ‘I hope we follow Mr. Snowden to the ends of the earth to bring him to justice.’
The Wall Street Journal, which has picked apart Obama’s economic programs on a regular basis, published a Sunday op-ed by former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey that expressed support from the program.
In contrast, Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP’s vice presidential nominee in 2012, told WRN Radio on Monday that the NSA spying program ‘comes across as creepy.’
‘To do a blanket dragnet nationwide,’ he said, ‘that seems to go way beyond the scope of the law that I’m familiar with called the Patriot Act.’
House Speaker John Boehner disagreed, calling Snowden a ‘traitor’ during an interview with ABC News.
‘The president outlined last week that these were important national security programs to help keep Americans safe,’ he said, \and give us tools to fight the terrorist threat that we face.’
But among ordinary voters, the Pew/Post poll indicates a partisan divide that plays out among more traditional party lines.
Pollsters reached 1,004 adults in the U.S., including a robust sample on cell phones.