Meanwhile, in the Beltway Bubble: D.C. Is Out of Step With America on Snowden

The former NSA contractor set This Town's teeth on edge, but most Americans think he exposed something worth exposing.

snowdenUSETHIS.banner.reuters.png.png

Reuters

He went to China to reveal closely held America secrets, had his passport revoked and a warrant issued for his arrest, fled to Russia with the aid of an accused sex offender, and has been offered asylum by Venezuela, a country whose anti-Americanism is legendary.

"He's a traitor," House Speaker John Boehner told ABC's Good Morning America in mid-June. He articulated the views of many in official Washington when he added: "The disclosure of this information puts Americans at risk. It shows our adversaries what our capabilities are. And it's a giant violation of the law." Said Senate Intelligence Committee Dianne Feinstein, also in mid-June: "I don't look at this as being a whistleblower. I think it's an act of treason."

And yet, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday, "American voters" -- having had a bit of time to reflect on the question -- "say 55-34 percent that Edward Snowden is a whistle-blower, rather than a traitor."

"Almost every party, gender, income, education, age and income group regards Snowden as a whistle-blower rather than a traitor," the pollsters reported. "The lone exception is black voters, with 43 percent calling him a traitor and 42 percent calling him a whistle-blower."

The poll also tracked some major changes since 2010 in American views of anti-terror programs.

But it's the views on Snowden I find most interesting: They suggest that the Snowden case is, like perceptions of Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky drama, another one of those stories where public opinion and opinion inside the Beltway have diverged in a way that speaks more highly of the American people than of Washington insiders.

The majority of voters do not think Snowden has betrayed his country, but rather provided important information about government wrongdoing. You would never know that from listening living in Washington, where an intelligence official recently told The Washington Post that the information Snowden obtained was "'not even close to the lion's share' of what the NSA is engaged in."

I think that was supposed to be reassuring. And yet, if you asked the same folks interviewed by Quinnipiac about it, somehow I'd suspect that's not how they'd see it.

Presented by

Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Politics

Just In