Most Think Media 'Hurt' American Interests by Revealing Tracking of Terrorist Finances

August 8th, 2006 4:24 PM

A Pew Research Center for the People and the Press survey released today discovered, by “by a margin of 50 percent to 34 percent, Americans think that news organizations have hurt rather than helped the interests of the American people” with “news reports that the government has been secretly examining the bank records of American citizens who may have ties to terrorist groups.” However, “an even larger 65 percent to 28 percent majority believes that these news accounts told citizens something that they should know about.”

Republicans are much more upset with the media than Democrats, the poll, conducted July 6-19, found: “While nearly seven in ten Republicans (69 percent) believe the press reports have hurt the interests of the American people,” with a piddling 17 percent of Republicans contending it helped, “relatively few Democrats agree (38 percent). Instead, a 46 percent plurality of Democrats regards the press reporting as beneficial to the public's interest.”

Further, “Democrats are almost unanimous (82 percent) in believing that the public needed to know about the government's bank monitoring program. Republicans are evenly divided on this question -- 45 percent say it was something the public should know about, 47 percent say the public did not need to know.”

Pew titled its August 8 summary: “Public Holds Conflicting Views of Press Reports About Government Monitoring Bank Records.” For the PDF of the questionnaire (part of a larger survey), which provides this text for the key question:

“In reporting that the federal government has been secretly examining the bank records of American citizens who might have ties to terrorist groups, do you believe that news organizations have helped or hurt the interests of the American people?”

I thought the program targeted the financial transactions of those connected to terrorism whose activities were processed by a European clearinghouse, not just “American citizens,” so Pew's wording probably lowered the percent who otherwise would have said they believe the news media “hurt the interests of the American people.”