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53% Say Media Leaks Are Act of Treason

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

When politics is the name of the game, one man’s treason is another man’s service to the nation.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that just over half (53%) of all Likely U.S. Voters still consider the leaking of classified information to the media to be an act of treason. Thirty percent (30%) disagree, while 18% are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

This is largely the same way voters felt in November 2010 following WikiLeaks’ publication of top secret U.S. government data related to the war in Afghanistan and other defense and foreign policy issues.

But while 73% of Republicans consider the leaking of classified information which plagues the Trump administration as treasonous, only half as many Democrats (36%) feel that way now. Voters not affiliated with either major party agree by a 50% to 27% margin that the leaks are an act of treason.

Republicans are more likely to see treason now; Democrats are less likely to do so. Unaffilliateds are unchanged.

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The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on May 29-30, 2017 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.

Fifty-eight percent (58%) of voters said in February that the leakers should be prosecuted.

Partisan differences of opinion are even more obvious when voters are asked whether media outlets that release secret government information are providing a public service or hurting national security. A plurality (47%) of all voters continues to feel the media is hurting national security. That’s little changed from February but down noticeably from 72% six years ago. Thirty-four percent (34%) say the media is providing a public service instead, up from 14%. A sizable 19% are not sure.

A closer look finds that 56% of GOP voters and 49% of unaffiliateds believe the media is hurting national security when it publishes government secrets, but Democrats by a 42% to 36% margin say it is doing a public service. In 2010 with a Democrat in the White House, 61% of voters in his party said the media was hurting national security by releasing secret government information, and 84% of Republicans and 72% of unaffiliated voters agreed.

While most voters of all ages agree that leaking classified information to the media is treasonous, those under 40 are less convinced than their elders that media outlets are hurting national security when they publish these secrets.

Eighty-five percent (85%) of voters who Strongly Approve of the job President Trump is doing see leaks of classified information as treasonous, and 65% of these voters think the media is hurting national security when it releases this information. Among voters who Strongly Disapprove of Trump’s job performance, just 28% see treason in the leaks, and only 30% believe media outlets are hurting national security.

Forty-nine percent (49%) of all voters think most media outlets publish classified information because they believe it’s the public’s right to know these things, but nearly as many (44%) say they are doing it for political reasons instead. 

Voters are closely divided when asked whether President Obama or his inner circle were aware that U.S. intelligence agencies were spying on Trump’s campaign, and 33% believe senior members of the Obama administration spread secretly obtained information about the incoming president and his team to members of the media.

The newest wave of disclosures from WikiLeaks shows the sophisticated level of spying the CIA is now capable of, and voters wish they didn’t know.

Voters are evenly divided when asked if the U.S. government generally does a good job protecting its secrets.

Sixty-seven percent (67%) of GOP voters think the media is more interested in creating controversies when it comes to Trump and the new Congress, while just as many Democrats (65%) believe the media is more interested in helping the public understand the issues.

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

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