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Snowden: Hero or Traitor? Some Americans Can’t Agree, But Others Don’t Know Who He Is

While more than a third of Americans say they’ve never heard of him, 25% of respondents to ReportLinker’s survey say Snowden should be pardoned. The same number believe he is a traitor.

Whistleblowers tend to induce strong feelings. Either we see thefm as heroes or we believe they’re traitors. Edward Snowden, the contractor for the U.S. National Security Agency who revealed the U.S. government’s global surveillance program by leaking thousands of classified documents to the press, is no exception. He inspires strong feelings in both directions by those aware of his actions.

But, surprisingly – for someone who exposed a massive surveillance program affecting millions of U.S. citizens – more than a third of Americans say they’ve never heard of him, according to a new survey on the cybersecurity industry by ReportLinker. Women, Asians, Hispanics and Africa-Americans are less likely than men and whites to be aware of Snowden. Almost 40% of women say they didn’t know who he was, while 56% of Asians and 47% of Hispanics and African-Americans say they haven’t heard of him.

What do American prople think of Edward Snowden.

For some, Snowden’s actions were both unlawful and dangerous. By releasing classified documents, he allegedly put intelligence agents in danger and damaged relationships with diplomatic allies.

Snowden and his supporters see it differently. Exposing the program was about protecting the right to privacy and democracy. “When many people think about privacy they think about their Facebook settings, but privacy is actually the fountainhead of all our rights. It is the right from which all others are derived and is what makes you an individual. It is the right to an independent mind and life. Freedom of speech doesn’t have meaning without the protected space to speak freely,” he recently told the New York Times.

That difference in opinion divides Americans. For example, one in four respondents to ReportLinker’s survey say Snowden should be pardoned, the same number that believe he is a traitor who should go to prison. White respondents are even more divided: 29% see him as a traitor, while 28% believe he should be pardoned.

Snowden currently is living in asylum in Russia. He is wanted by the U.S. Department of Justice, which has charged him with two counts of espionage and theft of government property.

It’s worth noting Americans are also divided about the type of government surveillance they find acceptable. For example, 52% say the FBI should have access to encrypted information, while 48% disagree.

And while 55% say they feel their personal data is safe from hackers, Snowden clearly believes cyber thugs aren’t the only threat to privacy.

This survey conducted by ReportLinker reached 513 online respondents representative of the US population. Interviews were conducted between November, 23rd and November, 25th 2016.