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UPDATE: Early 'Wash Post' Poll on NSA Phone Spying Refuted

By E&P Staff

Published: May 13, 2006 1:15 PM ET

They may be owned by the same company, but two polls commissioned by The Washington Post and Newsweek magazine on the important issue of public approval of the National Security Agency's gathering of phone records produced quite different results. Now a USA Today/Gallup poll suggests that the original Washington Post poll was highly misleading.

On Friday, a widely-publicized Washington Post/ABC survey revealed that 63% of Americans said they found the NSA program to be an acceptable way to investigate terrorism, including 44% who strongly endorsed the effort. Only 35% said the program was unacceptable.

This apparently inspired Time magazine to produce an article that suggested that President Bush might actually benefit from the revelations.

Then a Newsweek poll released Saturday found that 53% of Americans believe that reports that the NSA has been secretly collecting the phone records of U.S. citizens goes too far in invading people's privacy. Some 41% feel it is a necessary tool to combat terrorism.

On Sunday, the USA Today/Gallup survey came up with almost the same results. By 51%-43%, those polled disapprove of the program.

So what happened? Most likely views changed that much in one day after more negative media reports (including many from conservative commentators such as MSNBC's Joe Scarborough) surfaced. The Washington Post survey took place before many Americans had heard about, or thought about, the implications. The Newsweek Poll also reached twice as many Americans, and the USA Today/Gallup survey almost as many.

The Washington Post/ABC survey was conducted Thursday, just after the NSA news broke via USA Today, and reached just 502 citizens. Newsweek polled 1007 Americans on both Thursday and Friday. USA Today/Gallup polled on Friday and Saturday.

The Newsweek results were pretty stark: 57% of Americans say the administration has gone too far in expanding presidential power, while only 38% say they have not. The president's job approval rating in this poll declined one point to 35%.





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