Privacy SOS

Poll: Youth overwhelmingly support Edward Snowden

Photo courtesy Slowking4

A new poll commissioned by the Washington Post and ABC news shows that young people overwhelmingly support Edward Snowden, and don’t think he should be prosecuted for blowing the whistle on NSA spying. 

Just 35 percent of those under age 30 say he should be charged with a crime, compared with 57 percent of those 30 and up. And 56 percent of young adults say he did the “right thing” in leaking NSA documents. Just 32 percent of their elders agree. 

These numbers on majority youth support for Snowden come months after a July 2013 Washington Post/ABC News poll found that most people under 30, unlike their elders, did not prioritize investigation powers over their personal privacy rights. 

No matter their age, a vast majority of people surveyed think that the NSA’s dragnet surveillance programs violate US person privacy. Very few people think those intrusions are justified.

A whopping 68 percent of Americans think the NSA violates the privacy rights of “some Americans”; only twenty percent of that group think the intrusions are justified. Over half of respondents say the NSA intrudes on their own privacy, ninety percent of whom see this invasion as unjustified. 

Unsurprisingly, belief that the NSA is unjustifiably intruding on privacy rights correlates with weaker support for the US government’s prosecution of whistleblower Edward Snowden. Among people who believe the NSA is violating rights, 42 percent support the government’s prosecution of Snowden under the Espionage Act of 1917. Contrast that with 62 percent support for the prosecution among people who don’t worry about the privacy intrusions, or think they aren’t happening.

The poll found that opposition to the government’s dragnet surveillance operations tacks closely to party affiliation. Democrats, “protective of the Obama administration,” are now playing the role of surveillance defender while conservatives “are much more likely than moderates or liberals to think the NSA intrudes on privacy without justification.”

Perhaps Democrats need to be reminded that all the information the NSA collects today could be available to a President Rick Santorum or Marco Rubio in 2020? After all, that data center in Utah is awfully large.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.