Monday, February 27, 2006

Polling the wiretapping

SurveyUSA put its 50 State phonebanks to work on one of the better phrased warrantless wiretapping questions:
Based on what you know about the government wiretapping of certain phone calls ...
Is it clear that President Bush obeyed the law? ... Is it clear that President Bush broke the law?
Is it not clear? ... Or, are you unfamiliar with the matter?
Nationally, a plurality thinks the President broke the law (41%), while 22% did not think it was clear.

The great thing about this question is that it doesn't push information at people, it lets them express their own feelings. We don't know why those people think the President did or didn't break the law, or if they know what the law is.

For defenders of the program, this is a steep hill to climb. Of the people who aren't clear on the legality, a huge percentage would have to break the President's way for him to come out ahead.

Kansas gives the program the 8th highest level of legal support at 38% legal, 32% illegal, and 24% unclear. The unclears are almost identical across party. Moderates and Independents both join Democrats in thinking the program is illegal (by pluralities). Even among conservatives and Republicans, support for the legality of the program (in Kansas!) is at a mere 60%. Kansas is tied for the sixth highest number of people who are "not clear." Pennsylvanians are tied for 3rd.

Given that Kansans are more likely to approve of the President than to support the legality of the program. Approximately 10% of the people who approve of the President in Kansas don't think this program was legal.

Thirty-five percent of Kansas' moderates think the program is illegal, and any election in Kansas hinges on them. President Bush won Kansas twice by getting moderates to vote for him, and Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback need them, too.

Obviously, legality isn't measured in polls, but one expects that people don't like the idea of the President breaking the law, nor of their Senators aiding and abetting the crime. And people's natural trust for their elected officials means that a lot of the "not clear"s are really "broke the law"s who haven't worked through their cognitive dissonance yet.

For the record, in no state did the program clear 50% "legal" (Oklahoma tops that list at 42%), while one state (Vermont) went 52% for "illegal." There are 34 states in which pluralities declare that the president broke the law.