As more details come to light about the surveillance tactics of the National Security Agency, public opinion continues to evolve regarding Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old public employee who leaked the confidential information. Fifty-five percent of people view Snowden as a whistleblower while 34 percent view him as a traitor, according to a poll conducted by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. Currently, 45 percent of Americans think the government oversteps its counter-terrorism operations in restricting civil liberties. Only 40 percent disagree.
This is a radical transformation from just three years ago when 64 percent of the population believed the government was not doing enough for national security. Men tend to favor the view that the government overreaches by 54 percent to 37 percent while women are more evenly divided with 47 percent saying the government has not gone far enough and 36 percent disagreeing. Interestingly, there is little difference between Republicans and Democrats.
However, the greatest outlier in the poll revealed that 43 percent of American blacks view Snowden as a traitor while 40 percent viewed him as a whistleblower.
"The change in public attitudes has been extraordinary,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “Almost across the board and obviously not just related to the revelation of the phone-scanning program given all that has transpired since 2010. Yet it would be naive to see these numbers as anything but evidence of a rethinking by the public about the tradeoffs between security and freedom."
Sources: Quinnipiac University