A new BBC World News America / Harris Poll finds that Americans are divided, with no consensus, as to how much freedom the media should have to publish confidential government documents.
However, a sizable 69% to 18% of all adults agree that “publishing these documents could pose a security threat to the United States and therefore should be illegal.”
At the same time a 48% to 40% plurality believes that “the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment…gives organizations and individuals the right to post any information given to them.”
The public is clearly split on some of the key issues raised by the publication of government cables by WikiLeaks, and some people give somewhat contradictory responses depending on how the issue is presented.
These are some of the findings of a new BBC World News America / Harris Poll of 2,019 U.S. adults surveyed online between Dec. 17 and 21, 2010 by Harris Interactive. The findings were released today, Jan. 4.
WikiLeaks, a not-for-profit media organization that releases classified information for public consumption, recently published thousands of leaked United States embassy cables (communications).
It is stated to be the largest set of confidential documents ever to be released into the public domain. The documents gave people around the world an insight into US Government’s foreign activities. (Read: Wikileaks Leaks Out Secret US Embassy Cables)
WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange (pictured above) is an Australian journalist who is working to ensure the freedom of the press.[ Also Read: Wikileaks: All Leaks are being Plugged ]
Some of the other main findings of BBC World News America / Harris Poll are:
- A 47% to 39% plurality of all adults disagree that “WikiLeaks is helping to provide transparency in government which is important and good;”
- A 48% to 39% plurality disagrees that “publishing these documents could be embarrassing or hurtful to any given administration, but it’s not dangerous;”
- When it comes to the role of the media, the public is split between the 39% of all adults who agree and the 43% who disagree that all investigative journalism should be regulated by government; and,
- On one issue there is a very clear answer: by more than 4-to-1, a 62% majority believes that “the government should keep some secrets for national security, international diplomacy and other reasons” as opposed to only 13% who believe that “the government should keep no secrets at all….”
Just over one third, 35%, think the government should regulate what is released. One third, 32%, thinks that each media outlet should decide what to publish and one third, 33%, say they are not sure.
The poll also finds that Democrats and Independents are somewhat more likely than Republicans to support the right to release and publish government documents, and that younger people are much more likely than older people to do so.
Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms.
BBC America offers audiences television programs featuring news with global perspective, dramas, and comedies.
Photo courtesy: Wikipedia