When news broke in late 2005 that the National Security Agency was eavesdropping without warrants — surveillance that was authorized by President George W. Bush — Democrats were not happy campers. More than six in 10 (61 percent) Democrats said the practice was “unacceptable” in a Washington Post-ABC News poll shortly after the story broke.
But Democrats have changed their tune in the wake of new disclosures that the NSA is tracking millions of phone records under President Obama. According to a new Post-Pew Research Center poll, fully 64 percent say the agency’s latest program to access phone records is “acceptable,” which is 27 percentage points higher than their tolerance for the NSA’s probes when polled in 2006.
Republicans have shifted as well, but in a predictably different direction: 75 percent were OK with the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program in 2006, but a bare 52 percent majority says the NSA’s current phone tracking program is acceptable.
By an 8-point gap, Democrats are now slightly more supportive than Republicans of allowing government surveillance of “everyone’s e-mail and other online activities” if officials say it will curb terrorist attacks. It was Republicans who were 12 points more supportive of such broad provisions in a Pew Research survey asking the same question less than a year after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.