I saw my father yesterday, and we, like much of the country, spent some time talking about the NSA leaks and Snowden. My father asked how I felt about it, and I answered in a way only a daughter who's been debating her father for decades could answer: You already know how I feel about it Dad, we debated this years ago when Bush was President. He was testing me. Nothing makes my Dad happier than knowing he raised kids who keep their opinions consistent regardless of who's in power.
At that point my Dad mentioned that he had seen a survey that showed that Democrats and Republicans have switched places when it comes to supporting programs like this. Under Bush, Republicans supported NSA surveillance programs, now the don't. Vice versa for the Democrats.
I didn't have a chance until today to look up the survey my Dad was talking about, and I found a good breakdown at reason.com here.
There are actually 3 different polls cited: one from 2002, one from 2006, and one from just recently. The numbers do, in fact, flip (and 2006 is more dramatic than either of the other two years). Eugene Volokh however, does an interesting take on the numbers, and points out a different spin:
If the 38% of Republicans who said no still say no today, and the 45% who say yes new said yes in 2002, that amounts to 83% (out of the average of 93.5% responding) whose answers were the same. Likewise, if the 41% of Democrats who said yes still say yes today, and the 43% who say no now said no in 2002, that amounts to 84% (out of the average of 94% responding) whose answers were the same. (I oversimplify here by assuming that the same people were surveyed today as before, despite the changing composition of the public overtime; but if you relax that assumption, then the consistency rate might be even higher.)Those numbers actually sound pretty reasonable to me. One also has to wonder how many of those 16/17% would actually admit they legitimately changed their minds. 11 years is a long time. Even if you took the more dramatic 2006 numbers, about 75% of each party maintained their beliefs.
Now obviously it was not very likely that the same exact people were polled, so we don't actually have evidence that any individual changed their mind. The one thing to keep in mind when you see polls like this talking about Democrat vs Republican attitudes is that the type of person who identifies themselves with either party is changing. Here are the breakdowns of Dem vs Rep vs Independent for the 3 years listed:
Dem Rep Ind
2002 31 30 30
2006 33 28 30
2012 32 24 38
Even if these survey had polled the exact same group of people and they all had answered identically, the numbers would have changed based on changing political affiliation (or lack thereof). Things to ponder.