Pew has an interesting poll on public opinion toward NSA surveillance in 2006 and today:
Now, to some extent this is just showing partisan differences, with both Republicans and Democrats sticking up for their guy. What I think is interesting is that the two NSA programs in question are very different.
In the 2006 program, the government was spying on specific foreign terrorists. In the 2013 program, the government is spying on all Americans (no one believes that the program is really limited to Verizon, do they?). Moreover, the current program actually excludes foreigners.
So when 75% of Republicans were okay with spying on foreign terrorists, but only 52% are okay with spying on all Americans, there’s a logic to that. (Indeed, I would have expected the first number to be higher and the second lower.)
But the apparent Democratic position — foreign terrorists deserve privacy but not American citizens — makes no sense on the merits. It has to be blind partisanship.
POSTSCRIPT: What about the independents, who are hovering right around a lukewarm 50% but are somewhat more comfortable now than then? I think they are responding to a partisan media. Not that the media is so keen on NSA surveillance now, but their opposition is muted. If you recall the media in 2006, you would have thought that spying on foreign terrorists was the end of the republic.