Pew did a poll on various issues on the headlines, including the domestic spying. Interesting factoids emerge, including that on 32% are following it closely (compared to 40% for Iraq), and that 73% of people think the government should not monitor their phone calls or email.
Let’s just pull that number out and roll it around a little.
About 3 out of 4 Americans don’t want the government to monitor their email and phone calls. There’s nothing there about warrants, due process, exigent circumstances. People were just asked “Would you favor or oppose the following measures to curb terrorism?”
Even to curb terrorism, they don’t want the government monitoring these things. And if former NSA employees are to be believed, that’s exactly what happened to millions of Americans. Congress never authorized it, the courts never approved it, and the people don’t want it. It’s against the laws that Congress did pass.
It shouldn’t have happened.
Even when you ask people about warrantless searches of terror suspects (“Do you think it is generally right or generally wrong for the government to monitor telephone and e‑mail communications of Americans suspected of having terrorist ties without first obtaining permission from the courts?”) you get an evenly split public. I’m sure if you toss in variants on the “terrorist ties” language, you’d see a lot of bounce in that number.
It isn’t terribly surprising that African-Americans are much less supportive of broad government snooping, since they tend to bear the brunt of excess police powers. It’s interesting that so many Republicans, supposed fans of small government, are OK with this, but the support for this program is much lower than the support for the President among Republicans, indicating real concern across the board.
The release announcing the poll observes:
Today, Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats (37% vs. 18%) to say they favor allowing the government to monitor their telephone and email communications. This marks a 15-point increase in support among Republicans, and a nine-point drop among Democrats since 2000.
Does this mean Republicans are almost twice as likely to be party hacks, going wherever their president goes? Maybe not, but it speaks ill of a party that spends a lot of time bitching about big government and how government can’t get anything right, that the only time they want a bigger, less accountable government, is when a Republican president is expanding his own power to invade their privacy.
In other news, the poll shows that most of the public has yet to decide whether to support Judge Alito.