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Snowden Is A Whistle-Blower, Americans Say In Poll

More than half of American voters in a new Quinnipiac University national poll say that Edward Snowden is a whistle-blower, not a traitor. Interviewers asked more than 2,000 people about the National Security Agency contract worker who leaked secret documents about U.S. surveillance. They also asked about the line between privacy and security.

In the poll conducted from June 28 to July 8, interviewers called 2,014 registered voters on their landlines and cellphones. They were asked, "Do you regard Edward Snowden, the national security consultant who released information to the media about the phone scanning program, as more of a traitor, or more of a whistle-blower?"

In their responses, 55 percent called Snowden a whistle-blower, with 34 percent saying he is a traitor. Roughly the same percentage of Democrats (39 percent) and Republicans (38 percent) — said Snowden is a traitor.

"Almost every party, gender, income, education, age and income group regards Snowden as a whistle-blower rather than a traitor," the Polling Institute said in a release accompanying the data. "The lone exception is black voters, with 43 percent calling him a traitor and 42 percent calling him a whistle-blower.

And in a finding that could indicate a broader shift in attitudes on security and privacy, Quinnipiac reports that 45 percent of the respondents said the U.S. government's anti-terrorism policies go too far in restricting the civil liberties of average people — compared to just 25 percent who agreed with that idea in January of 2010.

"Some of the largest growth in those concerned about the threat to civil liberties is among men and Republicans," the polling organization says, "groups historically more likely to be supportive of governmental anti-terrorism efforts."

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.

As we reported Tuesday, Snowden is currently believed to be at Moscow's airport, hoping to elude capture by U.S. agencies and weighing his options. Last night, reports emerged that he may seek asylum in Venezuela.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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