Republicans were much more likely to find controversial NSA surveillance operations acceptable under President Bush than under President Obama, according to a Pew survey. For Democrats, the opposite is true.
A new survey by Pew finds that Americans, by 56 percent to 41 percent, describe it as “acceptable” that the “NSA has been getting secret court orders to track calls of millions of Americans to investigate terrorism.” In January 2006, during the Bush administration, Pew found that by 51 percent to 47 percent, a majority of Americans found it “acceptable” that the “NSA has been investigating people suspected of terrorist involvement by secretly listening in on phone calls and reading emails without court approval.”
More interesting than the headline number, however, is how the partisan breakdown of the numbers has dramatically changed. As the chart below shows, during the Bush era, 75 percent of Republicans found NSA operations acceptable, but now, a much smaller majority of 52 percent of Republicans find the current NSA program acceptable. Among Democrats, there was almost a total reversal — 37 percent found the actions of the Bush NSA acceptable, compared with 64 percent who find NSA’s actions under Obama acceptable.
Of course, both programs are different, so there are subtle arguments to be made for supporting one but not the other. That having been said, it’s hard not to think that much of the change comes down to the fact that Democrats are much more likely to give the benefit of the doubt to Obama, and Republicans were much more likely to give the benefit of the doubt to Bush.