A majority of Americans oppose former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s decision to leak thousands of damaging classified documents, according to a new poll.
An NBC News survey released Sunday
in the wake of NBC "Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams’ interview with Snowden show that 34 percent of respondents disagreed with Snowden releasing confidential details about the NSA mass surveillance program, while 24 percent said they supported his actions.
Forty percent said they do not have an opinion either way, while despite the blanket media coverage on the case, the poll shows that more than a quarter, 27 percent, of Americans had not heard of Snowden.
However, among those who followed the story on a regular basis, the NBC News poll found that 49 percent thought Snowden was wrong to reveal the mass phone and email data collection by the NSA, while 33 percent say that the measures he took were correct.
The poll illustrates a wide gap between the opinions of younger respondents, people age 18 to 34, who largely support Snowden’s actions, with 32 percent in favor and 20 percent against, compared to other age groups.
The NBC News poll of 800 registered voters was conducted May 27-29, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
The results were basically the same as an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll in January that found 23 percent of Americans supported Snowden’s actions, while 38 percent opposed them.
Williams interviewed Snowden in Russia, where the NSA leaker has been granted asylum. It aired last week.
"I may have lost my ability to travel," Snowden said during the interview. "But I've gained the ability to go to sleep at night and to put my head on the pillow and feel comfortable that I've done the right thing, even when it was the hard thing. And I'm comfortable with that."
Snowden reiterated his claims that he hoped to return to the United States eventually. "I don't think there's ever been any question that I'd like to go home," he said. "I mean, I've from day one said that I'm doing this to serve my country."
Snowden, who claims he is a whistleblower and not a traitor, faces espionage charges when he steps back onto American soil.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on NBC News' "Meet the Press" on Sunday, "His disclosures have damaged the security of this country, and I'm not going to get into a point-by-point inventory of the specifics of how he’s done that.
"There is plenty of evidence he did damage to the security of this country."
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