More than half of American voters say self-declared NSA leaker Edward Snowden is a whistle-blower not a traitor, according to a poll published Wednesday.
The fugitive, believed to be holed up in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, was supported by 55 percent of those surveyed by researchers at Quinnipiac University, Connecticut.
About one-third (34 percent) of those polled said they believed Snowden had betrayed his country.
Of those who backed his decision to leak the contents of classified documents in order to expose the extent of government-sanctioned surveillance, there was equal representation from almost every gender, social group and political persuasion.
The remaining 11 percent did not have an opinion.
Peter Brown, assistant director of the school’s Polling Institute said the result illustrated public shock at the scope of intelligence-gathering by government agencies seeking to prevent future terror attacks.
"The fact that there is little difference now along party lines about the overall anti- terrorism effort and civil liberties and about Snowden is in itself unusual in a country sharply divided along political lines about almost everything,” he said.
“Moreover, the verdict that Snowden is not a traitor goes against almost the unified view of the nation's political establishment."
Researchers asked 2,014 American voters: "Do you regard Edward Snowden, the national security consultant who released information to the media about the phone scanning program, as more of a traitor, or more of a whistle-blower?"
Brown added: "Americans' views on anti-terrorism efforts are complicated. They see the threat from terrorism as real and worth defending against, but they have a sense that their privacy is being invaded and they are not happy about it at all."
Venezuela is the "most likely" asylum choice for former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, the journalist who published the contents of the self-professed leaker's classified documents said Tuesday.
But his travel problems could take time to resolve as his U.S. passport has been canceled and U.S. allies may deny airspace to any flight on which he is believed to be traveling.