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21% Favor Amnesty for NSA Leaker Snowden

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Voters aren’t enthusiastic about granting NSA leaker Edward Snowden amnesty to halt his release of U.S. intelligence secrets, even though most agree the continued disclosures are hurting national security.

Just 21% of Likely U.S. Voters think the federal government should grant Snowden full amnesty from prosecution in exchange for his return of all classified information that he still possesses. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that twice as many (41%) oppose full amnesty for Snowden, although nearly as many (39%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.) 

Sixty-two percent (62%) still think it’s at least somewhat likely that the continuing disclosure of National Security Agency phone and e-mail surveillance programs is hurting U.S. national security. Just 25% consider that unlikely. This includes 30% who say it’s Very Likely to be hurting national security versus only five percent (5%) who feel that’s Not At All Likely.

Concerns about national security are largely unchanged since mid-June when Snowden, an independent contractor working for the NSA, first disclosed to the media that the agency was spying on the phone calls and e-mail of millions of innocent Americans as part of its anti-terrorism efforts. Snowden fled the United States to avoid prosecution and has been given asylum in Russia.

But indicative of the ambivalence that voters continue to feel about this case is the latest finding that, despite national security concerns, 59% think it’s good for the nation that the American people now know more about the NSA surveillance programs. That’s up seven points from 52% in early July.  Only 17% disagree. Twenty-four percent (24%) are undecided.

Twelve percent (12%) view Snowden as a heroic whistleblower, while 29% consider him a traitor who endangered lives and national security. For 38%, he’s somewhere in between the two. Sixteen percent (16%) still think it’s too early to tell. These findings, too, have changed little over the past six months.

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The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on December 14-15 2013 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

NSA officials have been suggesting publicly in recent days that Snowden be given amnesty because of the continuing flow of secret U.S. intelligence information that he is releasing to the media.

There’s little partisan difference of opinion when it comes to amnesty for Snowden and whether he is a hero or a traitor. Fewer than one-quarter of men and women and voters of all ages think he should be offered amnesty in exchange for returning all the classified information he has.

Most Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters agree, too, that the continuing disclosure of NSA programs is hurting national security, although GOP voters are the most concerned. But roughly 60% of all three groups also agree that it’s good for the nation that the American people now know what the NSA was up to.

Voters under 40 are less likely than their elders to consider Snowden a traitor.

Fifty-four percent (54%) of the Political Class view Snowden as a traitor, compared to 26% of Mainstream voters. But then 66% of those in the Mainstream think it’s good for the nation that the American people know more about the NSA surveillance programs. Just 34% of Political Class voters agree.

Seventy-seven percent (77%) of all voters have been following recent news stories about the NSA’s surveillance programs at least somewhat closely, with 37% who are following them Very Closely.

Just 34% support the NSA programs that secretly watch the phone calls and e-mail of millions of Americans. Seventy-one percent (71%) think it’s likely the programs have inappropriately violated the privacy of innocent Americans, and only 32% trust the president, the executive branch, Congress and federal judges to make sure the NSA abides by the Constitution.

Voters don’t consider the NSA programs to be as big a scandal as the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups or the Obama administration’s handling of the situation in Benghazi, Libya, but they think the NSA scandal is the likeliest of the three to be a lingering story.

Fifty-five percent (55%) of voters consider the federal government a threat to their constitutional freedoms.

Additional information from this survey and a full demographic breakdown are available to Platinum Members only.

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