Edward Snowden's Leaks Have Caused A 'Massive Shift' In The Public's Views Of Government Surveillance

Edward Snowden

National Security Agency leak source Edward Snowden is viewed as a “hero” by most Americans, and his leaks have caused a “massive shift” in public opinion against government surveillance, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll.

Snowden — who is currently seeking political asylum while holed up in Russia — is viewed as a “whistleblower” by 55% of poll respondents. Only 34% view him as a “traitor.”

But the most significant change came in the public’s view of the NSA’s surveillance programs, which Snowden exposed in a series of leaks to the Washington Post and The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald.

By a 45-40 margin, voters now say that the government goes too far in restricting civil liberties in the name of anti-terrorism efforts. That’s a huge reversal from January 2010, when the public said by a 63-25 margin that the government didn’t go far enough. 

“The massive swing in public opinion about civil liberties and governmental anti-terrorism efforts, and the public view that Edward Snowden is more whistle-blower than traitor are the public reaction and apparent shock at the extent to which the government has gone in trying to prevent future terrorist incidents,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac polling institute.

There is an interesting gender split on the issue. By a 54-34 margin, men say that the government has gone too far in restricting civil liberties. Women, on the other hand, say by a 47-36 margin that anti-terrorism efforts haven’t gone far enough. 

Here’s a chart looking at the overall swing:

Snowden chart

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