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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  1. icon
    BernardoVerda (profile), 8 Jan 2014 @ 6:57pm

    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.

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