Poll: Generational divide over Snowden's actions
June 13th, 2013
01:41 PM ET
10 months ago

Poll: Generational divide over Snowden's actions

Washington (CNN) – More than half of Americans think the man who leaked sensitive information about the massive and secret government surveillance program did the right thing. But the new national poll suggests an almost equal amount say the former intelligence contractor should be prosecuted.

And the Time survey indicates a wide generational divide, with younger people showing much more support for the actions of Edward Snowden.

Documents Snowden provided to journalists revealed the existence of the secret National Security Agency programs to collect records of domestic telephone calls in the United States and the Internet activity of overseas residents. Snowden, who fled to Hong Kong, was fired from his position Monday at the Booz Allen Hamilton consulting firm. The FBI is investigating the leaks.

According to the poll, 54% say Snowden did a "good thing" and 30% disagreed. But 53% say Snowden should be prosecuted for the leak, with 28% saying he should not face legal action. The survey was conducted Monday and Tuesday.

The survey indicates younger and older Americans don't see eye-to-eye over the leak. Seventy percent of those ages 18-34 say Snowden did a "good thing." That number drops to 50% for those ages 35-54 and to 47% for those age 55 and older. Forty-one percent of those ages 18-34 say the leaker should be prosecuted. That number rises to 56% for those ages 35-54 and to 62% for those 55 and older.

When it comes to Snowden's actions, the new poll differs from a Gallup survey released Wednesday. That poll indicated Americans divided over Snowden's actions, with 44% saying it was right for Snowden to share information about the surveillance programs and 42% saying it was wrong.

The new poll from Time indicates Americans are split over the government's use of surveillance programs to prevent terrorist attacks, with 48% approving and 44% disapproving. While there was little generational divide on the question, there was a wide partisan gap, with just 39% of Republicans approving of the programs. That number rises to 50% among independents and 58% among Democrats.

FBI Director Robert Mueller said Thursday at House Judiciary Committee hearing that secret government surveillance programs disclosed by leaks of classified information have been conducted in adherence with the U.S. Constitution and federal laws. Some lawmakers have complained that the actions go beyond the scope of the Patriot Act passed after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Gen. Keith Alexander, the National Security Agency chief, testified Thursday at a U.S. Senate hearing, said that phone records obtained by the government helped prevent "dozens" of terrorist events.

The Time poll was conducted June 10-11, with 805 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.


Filed under: NSA • Polls
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    Those kids are from my generation and I don't agree with them. Manning and Snowden are traitors. End of story.

    June 13, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  2. saywhat

    The question that we should ask is not whether Snowden is guilty but whether NSA infringed on 4th & 5th amendments and overstepped the bounds of the Constitution?

    June 13, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  3. saywhat

    comments being blocked

    June 13, 2013 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  4. saywhat

    bloggers beware you can't have your say

    June 13, 2013 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  5. Woman In California

    snowden didn't do real Americans any favor. He's a loser who wanted some underserved time in the national spotlight, (without having to actually work for it). IMO, he's equivalent to the [Tsnernev] brothers – petty, small and extremely untrustworthy and I hope he gets everything deserving of a traitor and I don't care where he gets it here or abroad.

    June 13, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    "just 39% of Republicans approving of the programs. That number rises to 50% among independents and 58% among Democrats."

    And CNN, being journalism-averse, didn't go back to check the party-line polling results when Bush's massive, phone records dragnet programs were discovered. I'm sure there's some level of partisan hypocrisy all around when you compare the two data sets....but why get into that, right CNN? Much better for the ad revenue to keep pretending that this issue only came to light under Obama, right?

    June 13, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  7. Boo

    I'm 58 years old and if I had the resources I'd give Snowden asylum myself. I lived thru the Vietnam War and those lies. I lived thru Watergate and those lies. This guy is hero to me. Whatever whoever can expose the lies and corruption of those elitest fascists in DC, I AM ALL FOR.

    June 13, 2013 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  8. jack 3

    The guy is a traitor plain and simple.

    June 13, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  9. jack 3

    Most young people don't have a clue for they are more concerned where the next party is.

    June 13, 2013 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  10. just sayin

    what are these useful idiots so worried about?!! this is the big government they love so much. you know, the one forcing them to buy a private product, the one in control of their student loans, the one telling them they can't buy a 20oz. drink. just sit back and enjoy the big government ride fools!

    June 13, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  11. gg

    Yeah right, sell me to china but I am still love you, you are my hero, and I stand with you.

    June 13, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  12. saywhat

    Bill of Rights is still alive & kicking folks. And hope it always remains that way.

    June 13, 2013 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  13. saywhat

    Its not 'end of story' its the beginning.
    New dimensions are now added with involvement of Israeli companies,Carlyle Group & Genie.

    June 13, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  14. Barry M Sax

    I retired five years ago as an Administrative Judge for the Department of Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals. For more than 20 years I listened to people the things that got them into trouble. In the current cases involving Manning and Snowden, my take on what they did is somewhat different from what I've seen in print. In each case, they took it upon themselves to make a decision to violate the law and their sworn obligation to protect all classified material and information. There are internal channels for complaints be made, but many cases, people like Manning and Snowden take upon themselves to make decisions they feel obligated to make, despite what the rules governing such disclosures require. If you really feel something is wrong, you have a moral obligation to say something. You also have an obligation to take the consequences of your actions. To run away suggest moral cowardice. If individuals with access to the nation's secrets make decisions by themselves as to what should be secret and what not, there is no safety for any of us. You obviously feel that you are protecting the nation's interests in some way, which were also weakening our ability to protect ourselves against terrorist. So, come back Mr. Snowden and have your day in court. If you see yourself as a good American, you should do so voluntarily.

    June 13, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  15. saywhat

    For those trying to pin the Prism outrage solely on Obama admn remember this stems from Patriot Act enacted during the Bush era of infamy, Civil liberties were compromised then, this a continuation of that policy. Use of Military force Bill was also enacted then.

    June 13, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  16. Fair is Fair

    Wait until they have to pay Obamacare premiums or Obamacare fines... yeah, they're just going to adore their beloved democratic party they so fervently voted for.

    June 13, 2013 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  17. Guess

    With more threats coming from him everyday, you should realize he is a loose cannon, and i would not complain if we silenced him, he is stirring trouble with china, on an already very sensitive subject

    June 13, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  18. hitmakersongwriting

    It really seems like the public is 10 years t late on this subject.
    Can any one say Patriate Act

    June 13, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  19. Guess

    I dont think this is about his concience, like he stated, he enjoys this to much to be philisophical in nature. this ends badly for him, feel for the family though

    June 13, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  20. Guess

    If you watch his last interview, it is easy to see he is enjoying this power trip he put himself on, and this gets to be less and less about you and i, our rights, and more about the fanfare of it all, beware, when the lights go out, party is over

    June 13, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  21. hitmakersongwriting

    Does anyone remember the Bush administration Patriot Act?

    The public must have been asleep at that time or they simply didn't care about this particular issue at that time...

    Wake up!

    June 13, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  22. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    The question is what did he do to bring his concerns to those that could best address it before going public with the programs? Did he try to change the system from the inside first? If he did and received no results or was threatened with being fired (and other punishments), then he had little choice. He could have gone to members of Congress directly.

    June 13, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  23. anonymous

    what are these useful idiots so worried about?!! this is the big government they love so much. you know, the one forcing them to buy a private product, the one in control of their student loans, the one telling them they can't buy a 20oz. drink. just sit back and enjoy the big government ride fools! send your thank you cards to obama!! your buddy... you can trust him right?!

    June 13, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  24. Data Driven

    And yet, everyone I know under 30 spends all day on Facebook and Twitter and have Gmail accounts.

    Hey kids, where do you think the government is getting their data from? From your Facebook text on your cell phone, that's where.

    June 13, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |