Pew Research has a new poll out with detailed analysis about respondents’ feelings regarding the NSA’s spying programs, government’s anti-terror policies in general, and whether the media ought to report on such policies via obtaining secret information. I found it quite revealing and fascinating myself.
First and foremost, I don’t understand the wording of Pew’s question about the “perception of government’s data collection program.” The question states, “Is the government collecting…” With the responses “only metadata,” “also what is being said in phone calls and emails,” and “DK.” The caveat of “only” before metadata is significant here. Only would seem to denote that metadata isn’t that bad in comparison or otherwise. When in fact, there have been many credible sources that have shown metadata is actually demonstratively worse than if the government were just listening in our calls or reading our emails directly.
That aside, the partisan lines, as always, are interesting to see. For instance, “Nationwide, there is more support for the government’s data-collection program among Democrats (57% approve) than among Republicans (44%), but both parties face significant internal divisions: 36% of Democrats disapprove of the program as do 50% of Republicans.”
If this was 2006, people would be shocked. Yet, here we are in 2013 and Democrats under the Obama administration seem to largely support the data-collection program. I find it unlikely the same would happen under Bush, a Republican administration.
Moreover, with respect to whether the media ought to report on information it obtains secretly, I found the split-response disheartening, “About half (47%) say that the media should report on the government’s secret methods, while the same percentage says they should not; overall opinion on this question is little changed from May 2006.” The public is split between journalism and harming anti-terrorism efforts, but while there is some validity there, the media, as long as they aren’t releasing information which could get people killed, then all should be fair game. That shouldn’t even be a question in a free society with a free press.
And once more, partisanship rules the day, as, “In 2006, there were large partisan differences on this question. At that time, Democrats thought the media should report this information by a 59%-38% margin.” Nowadays, only 45% say they should with 51% saying they should not.
I suppose the nugget of revealing information that baffles and bothers me the most is that 40% of people approve of the data-collection program even if they think their own data has been read or viewed or analyzed. Certainly, 58% of people disapprove, but what’s going on with that 40% of people?
“Hey, there, don’t bother, I’ll just put the shackles on my own wrists and ankles; I got it, thanks, though!”