Half of Americans Condemn WikiLeaks Release; Britons and Canadians Split

Angus Reid: People in the three countries think the release of classified cables will damage diplomatic relations between the U.S. and other countries.

The online publication of thousands of classified documents has been decried by half of Americans, but people in Canada and Britain are not as strong in their condemnation of the actions of WikiLeaks, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found.

The online survey of representative national samples shows that practically half of respondents in the United States (47%) are following the WikiLeaks story “very closely” or “moderately closely”, compared to 44 per cent in both Canada and Britain.

Half of Americans (51%) believe WikiLeaks as wrong to publish tens of thousands of classified U.S. diplomatic cables, while one-in-five (19%) agree with its actions.

The views of respondents in the other two countries are definitely more nuanced. In Canada, 36 per cent of respondents say WikiLeaks was wrong, while 30 per cent claim it was right. Britain posts very similar numbers, with 38 per cent of respondents stating that WikiLeaks was wrong, and 33 per cent saying it was right.

At least three-in-five respondents in the three countries believe the release of these documents will damage diplomatic relations between the U.S. and other countries (BRI 65%, CAN 61%, USA 60%) and majorities also state that the release of these documents will make it harder for the U.S. to advance its foreign policy goals (BRI 60%, USA 59%, CAN 57%). However, while three-in-five Americans (62%) fear that the WikiLeaks release will put people’s lives at risk, including U.S. diplomats and soldiers, this view is shared by about half of Britons (51%) and Canadians (48%).

The WikiLeaks Justification

In August, a spokesman for WikiLeaks justified the website’s actions, stating: “Knowledge about ongoing issues like the war in Afghanistan is the only way to help create something like safety. Hopefully with this understanding, public scrutiny will then influence governments to develop better politics.”

A third of Americans (32%) agree with this justification, while almost half (47%) disagree with it.

Full Report, Detailed Tables and Methodology (PDF)