January 27, 2006

TELL US THE ANSWER YOU WANT AND WE'LL TELL YOU WHAT TO ASK:

New Poll Finds Mixed Support for Wiretaps (ADAM NAGOURNEY and JANET ELDER, 1/27/06, NY Times)

In a sign that public opinion about the trade-offs between national security and individual rights is nuanced and remains highly unresolved, responses to questions about the administration's eavesdropping program varied significantly depending on how the questions were worded, underlining the importance of the effort by the White House this week to define the issue on its terms.

The poll, conducted as President Bush defended his surveillance program in the face of criticism from Democrats and some Republicans that it is illegal, found that Americans were willing to give the administration some latitude for its surveillance program if they believed it was intended to protect them. Fifty-three percent of the respondents said they supported eavesdropping without warrants "in order to reduce the threat of terrorism."

The results suggest that Americans' view of the program depends in large part on whether they perceive it as a bulwark in the fight against terrorism, as Mr. Bush has sought to cast it, or as an unnecessary and unwarranted infringement on civil liberties, as critics have said.

In one striking finding, respondents overwhelmingly supported e-mail and telephone monitoring directed at "Americans that the government is suspicious of;" they overwhelmingly opposed the same kind of surveillance if it was aimed at "ordinary Americans."


So basically the Times is push polling.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 27, 2006 8:41 AM
Comments

Let's get out the decoder ring:

nuanced:
The public thinks we're wrong.

highly unresolved:
The public thinks we're really wrong.

the effort by the White House this week to define the issue on its terms:
Why won't they just accept the debate on our terms?

depending on how the questions were worded:
People don't like it when we called the president "Chimpy McHitler."

President Bush defended his surveillance program in the face of criticism:
Our editorial "President Bush Is a Poopy-Head" comes out early next week.

Fifty-three percent of the respondents said they supported eavesdropping:
We tried bribing them with free tickets to Brokeback Mountain but for some reason that didn't take.

unnecessary and unwarranted infringement on civil liberties:
Who cares about al Qaeda when our Constitutional right to phone sex is being violated?

In one striking finding:
We were shocked to learn that Americans want to go after bad guys and not ordinary Americans. Must commission another poll.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at January 27, 2006 9:49 AM

I haven't read the entire article, but from what you posted it looks to me that the polled stuck it to the pollsters. Nice try pollsters, try it again. You might get them to respond with the right answers; err maybe that should be stated as left answers.

Posted by: Genecis at January 27, 2006 10:20 AM

Ordinary Americans aren't having phone conversations with Jihadists overseas, and would probably appreciate the feds being on top of things if they found out they inadvertantly were. Either they're guilty or it's like complaining that the cop tailing the plumber you let in your house busted in and let you know he's a murderer.

Posted by: RC at January 27, 2006 10:35 AM

At this point in history, the raison d'etre of The New York Times is one giant push poll.

But nobody's buying.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 27, 2006 10:49 AM

"depending on how the questions were worded"

And what order they are asked in, how the sample was constructed ...

Polls are almost worthless, because of these issues. You tell me what results you want, and I will get them.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at January 27, 2006 11:30 AM
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