Sunday, May 14, 2006

Not such a good idea after all: New polls show unhappiness over domestic spying

[updated 5 pm Central Time to add USA Today poll]

Newsweek is reporting a new poll that found 53 percent of those surveyed think the National Security Agency’s spy - on - just - about - everybody surveillance program “goes too far in invading people’s privacy.”

Meanwhile, USA Today reported on a Gallup Poll showing that 51 percent of Americans "disapprove of a massive Pentagon database containing the records of billions of phone calls made by ordinary citizens."
About two-thirds are concerned that the program may signal other, not -yet - disclosed intelligence efforts directed at the general public.

These polls are in stark contrast with a Washington Post poll taken on May 11, the day the spy scandal broke. That poll showed an overwhelming majority in favor of the program. However, the Post poll only sampled 500 people and had a margin of error of 5 percentage points.

The Newsweek poll was taken on May 11 and 12 by the Princeton Survey Research Associates International, and interviewed 1,007 adults aged 18 and older. Newsweek reports that “the margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.”

The USA Today/Gallup poll was taken May 12 and 13 and surveyed 809 adults.

Newsweek also reports:

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.
Meanwhile, Bush got the lowest approval rating of his presidency in the Newsweek poll, hitting 35 percent.

Are the Newsweek USA today polls more accurate then the Post poll? It’s hard to tell.

The Post sample seemed awfully small for a national poll, so the poll itself may have been inaccurate. The Post also didn’t report the questions asked, which always makes me a little leary. Timing may also have been a factor, since at least some folks in the Newsweek poll had one more day to consider and learn about the situation.

But all of these polls are nothing more then snapshots. Consistent results in different polls over time will tell. The real test, though, will come at the ballot box in November.

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