Thursday, March 16, 2006

Public Opinion and Spying

Via Kevin Drum, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found that the public supports the domestic spying program by a margin of 52% to 46%. Drum suggests that “apparently we've done a lousy job of mobilizing public opinion against the NSA wiretapping program.” I agree that these numbers are troubling but I see a faint glimmer of hope here. The poll shows that 35% strongly oppose the program while only 33% strongly support it. What tips the scales in favor of support for the program is that 19% somewhat support the program while only 11% somewhat oppose it.

We have to accept that a certain portion of the hardcore flag-waving population will pledge their support for anything Bush proposes under the auspices of fighting terror. That said, 35% is a solid base of strong opposition. Provided Democratic politicians and progressive media outlets continue to frame this as a debate about executive power and not national security (after all, even Russ Feingold has said he supports domestic surveillance if it is done legally) there is good potential to win over those on the fence and mobilize public opposition to unwarranted, unregulated spying.