A large national poll released Thursday by Quinnipiac University shows Americans by a wide margin still view former NSA contractor Edward Snowden as a "whistle-blower," rather than a "traitor."
Russia granted Snowden one year of political asylum on Thursday, after he spent more than a month holed up in Moscow's international airport. Snowden is wanted for prosecution by the American government for exposing in early June its massive phone and Internet surveillance programs to the press.
Fifty-five percent of the 1,468 poll respondents – queried by phone July 28-31 – said Snowden is a whistle-blower, and just 34 percent said he's a traitor.
That's the exact breakdown of a poll conducted June 28-July 8 by Quinnipiac with 2,014 respondents. In each poll there was a 21-point gap between the flattering and damning options.
Despite the consistent overall findings, several key demographic groups shifted in their appraisal of Snowden.
The percentage of Republicans calling Snowden a whistle-blower dipped from 55 percent to 51 percent, while Democrats who think this shot up from 49 percent to 56 percent.
The partisan pivot may reflect the evolution of media coverage away from the role of President Barack Obama and toward Congress, where members are actively debating the policies. In late July a bipartisan group led by liberal Democrats and libertarian Republicans in the House nearly defunded the NSA's dragnet phone-record collection.
Black Americans, who in the last survey were the only demographic group with a plurality – 43 percent – labeling Snowden a traitor, shifted to 50 percent saying Snowden is a whistle-blower.
Young voters aged 18-29, the most supportive age group in the last survey at 67 percent, now share the distinction with voters aged 30-44, with 64 percent of each group saying he's a whistle-blower.
"Most American voters think positively of Edward Snowden, but that was before he accepted asylum in Russian," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, in a released statement Thursday.
When Brown released the results of the late July poll, he noted the disconnect between widespread official condemnation of Snowden and the apparent public support for his actions.