A new Pew survey shows exactly what I would have predicted, that one’s views on illegal government surveillance often changes significantly depending on whether you support the party in the White House. Overall, 56% said they’re okay with the government tracking all our phone calls in order to stop terrorism.
A majority of Americans – 56% – say the National Security Agency’s (NSA) program tracking the telephone records of millions of Americans is an acceptable way for the government to investigate terrorism, though a substantial minority – 41% – say it is unacceptable.
The political breakdown: Republicans support it 52% to 47%. Democrats support it 64% to 34%. But when asked the same question in 2006, when Bush was in the White House, the results flip almost completely. Then, Republicans favored it 75% to 23% and Democrats opposed it 61% to 37%.
Update: A friend leaves this comment on Facebook, which I think is a good one:
I also think the polling flip-flop (aside from the obvious question wording nightmare) is just demonstrating how people use partisan affiliation as a heuristic. I think this is especially true of low-information voters who just go with their gut on who they trust (and what they glean from the tone of the media they encounter). Most people, regardless of partisan identification, don’t maintain a well-developed core ideological position on the Fourth Amendment. They just trust the government more when the party they identify with is in power.
But people who get paid to spout off on television about such things have no excuse. (Even if the same dynamic is at work – let the partisan affiliation determine where to point the outrage and then hang some principled-sounding BS arguments on it as camouflage. Seems to describe 98% of right-wing media.)