What Fresh Hell Is This?

May 15, 2006

Polls, polls, and more polls

We've seen the numbers. Fred Honsberger's reported the numbers (on both his radio show and on OffQ). Even the wingnut trolls have dutifully echoed the numbers.

Washington Post:
45. It's been reported that the National Security Agency has been collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans. It then analyzes calling patterns in an effort to identify possible terrorism suspects, without listening to or recording the conversations. Would you consider this an acceptable or unacceptable way for the federal government to investigate terrorism? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?

Acceptable 63%/Unacceptable 35%
There's an interesting aspect to this poll. Fred Honsberger on OffQ said that the crime that was committed here is the leaking of the information about the program, but not the program itself. I wonder if Fred has seen this part of the Washington Post poll:
47. Do you think it is right or wrong for the news media to have disclosed this secret government program?

Right 56%/Wrong 42%/No Opinion 1%
So according to this poll, a majority think it's OK for the media to report on the secret government program. Fred didn't say this (as far as I know) on the air. Gee, go figure.

But what else is happening in Poll-land?

Newsweek is reporting this:
Has the Bush administration gone too far in expanding the powers of the President to fight terrorism? Yes, say a majority of Americans, following this week’s revelation that the National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone records of U.S. citizens since the September 11 terrorist attacks. According to the latest NEWSWEEK poll,53 percent of Americans think the NSA’s surveillance program “goes too far in invading people’s privacy,” while 41 percent see it as a necessary tool to combat terrorism.
Americans think the White House has overstepped its bounds: 57 percent said that in light of the NSA data-mining news and other executive actions, the Bush-Cheney Administration has “gone too far in expanding presidential power.” That compares to 38 percent who think the Administration’s actions are appropriate.
And then there's the poll from the USAToday/Gallup:
3. Based on what you have heard or read about this program to collect phone records, would you say you approve or disapprove of this government program?

Approve 43%/Disapprove 51%/No Opinion 6%
And then there's this:
6. Based on what you have heard or read about this program, do you think it definitely violates the law, probably violates the law, probably does not violate the law, (or) definitely does not violate the law?

Definitely violates the law 22%
Possibly violates the law 32%
Probably does not violate the law 25%
Definitely does not violate the law 14%
No Opinion 8%
For the math-challenged in the audience (and you know who you are), 54% of those polled say that the program definitely or possibly violates the law.

Here's E&P with an explanation
So what happened? Most likely views changed that much in one day after more negative media reports (including many from conservative commentators such as MSNBC's Joe Scarborough) surfaced. The Washington Post survey took place before many Americans had heard about, or thought about, the implications. The Newsweek Poll also reached twice as many Americans, and the USA Today/Gallup survey almost as many.

The Washington Post/ABC survey was conducted Thursday, just after the NSA news broke via USA Today, and reached just 502 citizens. Newsweek polled 1007 Americans on both Thursday and Friday. USA Today/Gallup polled on Friday and Saturday.

The Newsweek results were pretty stark: 57% of Americans say the administration has gone too far in expanding presidential power, while only 38% say they have not. The president's job approval rating in this poll declined one point to 35%.
By the way, here's what Joe Scarborough said:
Now, whatever you consider yourself, friends, you should be afraid. You should be very afraid. With over 200 million Americans targeted, this domestic spying program is so widespread, it is so random, it is so far removed from focusing on al Qaeda suspects that the president was talking about today, that it‘s hard to imagine any intelligence program in U.S. history being so susceptible to abuse.

You know, I served on the Judiciary Committee and the Armed Service Committee in Congress for four years, and no program I studied while using security clearances ever came close to the scope of this massive spy program. It is dangerous, it breaks FCC laws, and it endangers all Americans‘ right to privacy.

But you know what? The villains in this spy program are pretty easy to target, almost as easy as your phone records. First you have the president, who‘s shown that he will break laws if they get in his way of spying. Second, Democratic leaders—they complain now, but where were they? They reviewed the program. Why no protest? Don‘t hold your press conferences now, Nancy Pelosi. Tell us about it when you learn about it!
I like how for all this, Scarborough still gets in a few punches to the Democrats. Notice the reasons why the villains are villains: The President who breaks laws when they get in the way and the Democrats who are complaining too late.

But which one is breaking the law?

But I'll give the final word on polls to the President's wife. She too must think that reality has a liberal bias. When asked about her husband's abysmal poll numbers she responded
Well, I don't think they are, and I don't really believe those polls.
Ah, how lovely that belief trumps reality in ‘Murika.

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