Liberals And Conservatives Switch Positions On NSA Surveillance Depending On If 'Their Guy' Is In Power

from the terrible dept

Orin Kerr has pointed out that people who self-identify themselves as “liberals” or “conservatives” seem to shift their opinion on NSA surveillance depending on whether or not it’s “their guy” in the White House. That is, back when George W. Bush was President, “Democrats” disapproved of the NSA’s surveillance activities, with only 27% approving it. “Republicans” on the other hand, had a 75% approval of the NSA’s activities, which were known to include warrantless wiretapping. Fast forward to today, and we have “liberals” being split down the middle between being concerned and not concerned, but conservatives having 77% either “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about the surveillance (48% falling into the “very concerned”) category. Kerr notes that the two surveys may not be completely comparable — the questions were not identical, and one study was based on political party, while the other was based on ideology (which might not match up). But, at the very least, it does suggest a general sense that people are much more comfortable with surveillance when “their guy” is in power, and against it when they dislike the President.

That’s troubling on any number of levels, but hopefully it serves as a point to a useful tool in convincing those who trust “their guy” not to abuse the system: just ask them how comfortable they’ll be when “the other guy” is in power after the next election?

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Comments on “Liberals And Conservatives Switch Positions On NSA Surveillance Depending On If 'Their Guy' Is In Power”

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Anonymous Coward says:

It’s a trust thing. Democrats/liberals trust Obama to use the data wisely, but not Bush. Republicans/conservatives trust Bush to use the data wisely, but not Obama.

Both sides are apparently incapable of seeing beyond the next transfer of power.

If you want to see it on a large scale, just look at Obama himself, and all the things he was against until he had personal control over them. Gitmo, secrecy, sweeping executive orders, etc. (Although with Obama it could also be “power corrupts” since he’s getting the powers personally.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I think there is a level of realism in it too: When you are a lowly senator or politician x, you can talk from a purely ideologically religious point of view, while when you are sitting in the chair practical concerns are a factor to take into account.

The “no nationbuilding from US troops” promise from Bush in 2000 and the number of people being kept in Afghanistan after taliban bowed down has a certain dichotomy to it, but in reality it is practically impossible to just swoop in and move out without the “bad guys” taking over again and therefore the need for another strike.

The “close Guantanamo” promise from Obama in 2008 has a lot of hypocricy to it aswell, but it was simply impossible for him to find places willing to take the prisoners in democratic fashion.

Don’t get me started on the political need for cooperation!

Whatever side of the fence you are on, there is a very narrow line to walk between being a liar and irrelevant. You can always talk about how the politicians should have known better, but in reality politics is incredibly dirty in more than one way. It is not just the obvious corruption screwing it up!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

So basically what you’re saying is that the people we are electing to lead the country are too caught up in politics before entering office to have any practical experience with the things we are expecting them to manage?

Or in other words, we have people with no subject knowledge making decisions that affect millions of people.

It’s like having John Smith across the street that works at the local gas station design the next overpass to your house instead of a qualified civil engineer. Stupid

Brazenly Anonymous says:

Re: Re: Re:

Meaningless pandering excuses. A little foresight and the willingness to take a small hit to accomplish something worthwhile would easily override those barriers.

Need a place to put the people form Guantanamo? Either build some new locations and shuffle prisoners, or get more people out of the prisons. It isn’t easy, no, but the President does have some political power to swing around, so it’s a matter of which fights they embroil themselves in. Such as, not going after whistle-blowers so you can instead fix the problems they are pointing out.

No nation-building from US troops implies taking diplomatic routes to solve problems, or at least making sure our allies are firmly on side and supplying troops of their own in significant measure. It does not mean that you manufacture a second war to follow the first.

Me says:

Not Me

I’ve said it before but I’ve been a straight-ticket Dem voter for 25 years. I voted for Obama twice, but the DNC has a real issue on their hands when folks like me have decided no more. I laugh at the Dem candidate emails I keep getting asking to donate. WTF?! You guys are violating every civil liberty you can and you want me to continue to vote and fund you? No way in hell. It’s true I’m not likely to vote for the Pub candidate instead, but enough folks like me *withholding* our Dem vote can sway elections. All the money I typically earmark for political campaigns this last years have instead gone to the EFF and ACLU.

Don’t spit in my food and expect me to be grateful, DNC.

Wally (profile) says:

Fractured truth yields fractured answer...lots to say...

Mike, one thing I’d like to point out is that we’ve had several congressional elections since the draft of the PATRIOT Act in general. I can see the data in several different ways because of this.

What I boil the data down to is that it seems that both parties are trying to get each other in trouble with the public for power…

The Democrats spoke out against the changes to the PATRIOT Act and the FISA revision in 2006, and yet they voted in favor of them (including one then Senator from Illinois, Barrak Obama…who by then was working on getting his 2008 presidential campaign going). I remember clearly in the media about how Bush Jr was signing bills that would allow the NSA to spy on us…and how the GOP set it all up….After Obama got elected, major news media outlets went silent about it until Snowden blew the whistle…

Now to the Bush Jr’s credit…at heart, he had the idea of protection in mind…I don’t think anyone in that current congress (save Nancy Pelosi and Joanne Feinstein) knew how to exploit it to their party’s advantage. The two biggest Congrssional lobbyers for the Patriot Act were Pelosi and Feinstein…In my view, they took advantage of the intent of the PATRIOT Act…and lobbied to have it revised to what it l has become…Nancy Pelosi lobbied to keep Section 215 by lobbying against the Smith-Amash Act…

Thing to note on my view is that the biggest sign that there is something up is that all those who were once heads of the Congrsssional Intelligence Committee still majorly support Section 215.

Anonymous Coward says:

Thank you for saying it Me. I much agree. The two party system has failed us. We are now always voting for the guy we don’t want in office. It’s not about how is best qualified.

Problem with that, is there is not enough difference between the two parties when they take over the reigns of power to make an impression as change. I can no longer support either party. Both have left me standing in the road while they took off on their prospective paths.

Don’t drop a turd in my plate and expect me to be grateful.

mcinsand (profile) says:

'conservative,' 'liberal' no longer related to ideology

The words ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ are now merely synonyms for ‘Republican’ and ‘Democrat,’ respectively, rather than linked to ideology. And, with the major policies of the past 12-14 years, we can safely say that Coke and Pepsi are more different than the two parties. In fact, that is all that the parties are about anymore: branding.

Anonymous Coward says:

“… but hopefully it serves as a point to a useful tool in convincing those who trust “their guy” not to abuse the system: just ask them how comfortable they’ll be when “the other guy” is in power after the next election?”

Unfortunately, that logic doesn’t seem to work. The libs said it about the increase in executive powers during the Bush administration, but have quieted during the Obama administration.

This will not have a happy ending.

NoahVail (profile) says:

(Disclaimer: Conservative for 20+ years, liberal before that.)

I have 2 blanket statements to make about conservatives, liberals and surveillance.

“Any conservative candidate that survives into office will expand the surveillance state as much as possible.”

I think most honest conservatives and liberals would agree with that statement.

“Any liberal candidate that survives into office will expand the surveillance state as much as possible.”

Here’s where it gets weird.

Conservatives – They tend to be pro-surveillance and anti-liberal.
I wouldn’t want an opinion born from that mix.

Liberals – I don’t know what to think about liberals.
I suspect that as long as a Dem candidate is breaking some kind of social barrier (female, LGBT, whatever), most liberals will enthusiastically believe any campaign promise made about surveillance reform and transparency.

They shouldn’t.

Candidate Obama had an extraordinarily good mindset about Surveillance, in 2007.
However, Obama’s conversion to the Surveillance-Dark-Side began before he was even elected.
By the time Pres Obama was a year into office, he was fully turned.

In my opinion, far too many liberals are in denial about this.

Since conservatives are on the wrong side of the surveillance issue
and (afaik) liberal ideology abhors a surveillance state
then we need our liberals to denounce and help roll back constitutional surveillance.

But if liberals will only acknowledge surveillance abuses under a Republican PotUS, they are (at best) as bad as conservatives.

BernardoVerda says:

Re: field independence

So one side changed from 37% to 52% approval, when “their side” came into power, the other side went from 75% to 21% approval, when their side lost power. Methodological comparison issues not withstanding, those changes don’t appear anywhere near equal.

This could also be summarized as, “liberals” are much less likely than “conservatives” to evaluate an important issue by the partisan metric of which side is currently in charge, rather than by the actual merits of the case.

Or, if you think that’s biased, you could instead say that “conservatives” are much more likely than “liberals”, to judge important issues on the basis of partisan political affiliation rather than on facts and principles.

Admittedly, I fall on the “liberal” side (can’t you tell?) of the spectrum (especially by American standards), but I’m not in the least surprised.

Crashoverride (profile) says:

When Bush did the surveillance it was clearly illegal to the point that retroactive immunity had to be drummed up….. and Republicans were still very much in favor and support.

But when Obama continued and didn’t stop the Republican spying programs… under newly created Republican laws…. thus having legal cover. Oh hell no.. Republicans now are pissed… and he is doing what their laws gave him cover to do, not blantaly illegally as Bush did.

Despite above my feelings are that the surveillance is highly questionable, illegal and useless.

bssellin (profile) says:

Far Left Liberal

I didn’t trust the NSA under Bush, and trust it even less under Obama.

Remember this, what can be misused/abused is being misused.

Government functionaries, the ones you deal with directly, in the local office, will generally tell you the truth as they understand it (which doesn’t mean it is accurate).

The higher you go on the organization chart the less true this is.

Rooker (user link) says:

It’s ironic and head-on-desk frustrating. I used to identify as Republican. I voted for them, supported them. I even wrote a nice letter to Pres Bush (Jr) when he took office and got an autographed picture for it. Then 9/11 happened.

When John Ashcroft got up in front of everyone called people traitors for “scaring peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty,” it eventually led to me giving Republicans the finger and becoming a Democrat.

Then we got Obama and nothing really changed on the surveillance front. Then Snowden happened and a distressingly large number of my liberal friends decided privacy was something only the privileged have time to worry about. And I started banging my head on my desk again.

It’s frustrating.

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