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WaPo NSA Poll

The Washington Post did a quickie poll yesterday to try to gauge the fallout from the USA Today story. According to WaPo, 63% of those polled said they find the practice of collecting the phone records of millions of Americans as an acceptable way to investigate terrorism. I, like many others, have doubts about the accuracy of this poll but that didn't stop right-wing pundits and bloggers from immediately jumping on these results as vindication that Americans "get it" ("it" being that real Americans understand the issue better then those naysayers who whined about "civil liberties"). They also heralded this as a sign that Democrats should shy away from this issue because real Americans support Bush in this endeavor.

But like I said, I have my doubts. Firstly is the timing of the poll. It was conducted less then 12 hours after the USA Today story came to light. I doubt very much that anyone had time to seriously digest the facts. It was also conducted over the course of just one evening and the number of respondents was about half of what it normally is for these types of polls. I think having a wider sample range would have had an effect on the results, perhaps not by much but who knows for certain.

And the question itself was highly biased (emphasis added):
It's been reported that the National Security Agency has been collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans. It then analyzes calling patterns in an effort to identify possible terrorism suspects, without listening to or recording the conversations. Would you consider this an acceptable or unacceptable way for the federal government to investigate terrorism? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat? (emphasis added)

The question gives the impression that the government isn't doing anything with these calls besides analyzing them for "patterns". Do we know that for sure? I mean we were told previously that the government wasn't monitoring domestic calls at all. That apparently wasn't the case (I know some can argue there is a different between listening into calls and just collecting a record of them but to me it's still monitoring). We are now suppose to just trust that they aren't listening or recording these conversations since, you know, they have been so forthcoming with information in the past?

I have a feeling that as this begins to sink in, this poll will come to be seen as an anomaly and not the norm. Or at least I it hope does. If not, we are definitely in trouble.

More on this from Glenn, Jane, Jeff Alworth, The Moderate Voice, Carpetbagger

Update: Just goes to show you how the timing and wording of a poll can change the results.

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