Poll: Americans’ views shift in favor of civil liberties

Americans are not willing to trade liberty for security, despite overtures from President Barack Obama and politicians from both sides of the aisle, according to a new poll from Quinnipiac. They also reject the notion that Edward Snowden, the man who linked the information about the NSA’s broad surveillance techniques, is a traitor to his country.

“In a massive shift in attitudes, voters say 45 - 40 percent the government’s anti-terrorism efforts go too far restricting civil liberties, a reversal from a January 14, 2010, survey by the independent Quinnipiac University when voters said 63 - 25 percent that such activities didn’t go far enough to adequately protect the country,” the polling firm noted in a release on Wednesday (emphasis added).

“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. There is little difference among Democrats and Republicans who are about evenly divided. Independent voters say 49 - 36 percent that counter-terrorism measures have gone too far,” added Quinnipiac. “Some of the largest growth in those concerned about the threat to civil liberties is among men and Republicans, groups historically more likely to be supportive of governmental anti- terrorism efforts. “

A solid majority of Americans, 55%, view Snowden as a whistleblower, according to the poll, while only 34% consider him to be a traitor. Snowden, who leaked the information about the NSA’s broad surveillance of innocent Americans to a British newspaper, has been trying to avoid extradition back to the United States for prosecution.

President Obama, many members of Congress from both sides of the aisle and the media have centered their focus on Snowden, a concerted to draw attention away from the what many legal scholars consider to be an unconstitutional violation of privacy,

“Almost every party, gender, income, education, age and income group regards Snowden as a whistle-blower rather than a traitor,” noted Quinnipiac. “The lone exception is black voters, with 43 percent calling him a traitor and 42 percent calling him a whistle-blower.”

While one poll is not a trend, though there have been several showing disapproval of the NSA spying program, Nate Silver notes that the Quinnipiac numbers are still a significant development.

“First, the magnitude of the change was considerably larger than the margin of error in the poll. Second, the poll applied exactly the same question wording in both 2010 and 2013, making a direct comparison more reliable,” wrote Silver at The New York Times. “Third, this was a well-constructed survey question, describing both the benefit (protecting the country) and the cost (restricting civil liberties) of antiterrorism programs in a balanced way.”

Despite all the talk of being in tune with Americans on various issues, only a handful of elected officials in Washington are pushing measures to protect Americans’ privacy rights by rolling back the excesses of post-9/11 policy and strengthening oversight for the nation’s surveillance apparatus.

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