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Survey Says: Prosecute WikiLeaks Founder As Terrorist

A new poll conducted for Allbritton's Hill newspaper/Web site Politico and backed by Qualcomm, found that while there was wide disagreement inside and outside the Beltway on the economy, Congress, and the President, the "D.C. elites" and the rest of the country were in agreement about what actions to take against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange: Throw the book at him.

WikiLeaks published a quarter million diplomatic cables much to the displeasure of the State Department. According to the suvey, 48% of the general population favored prosecuting him as a terrorist, while only 22% opposed that move. A similar 49% of D.C. elites agreed with prosecutiong, though a greater number than the general population (36%) said no.

Republicans generally took a dimmer view of Assange than Democrats, but not by much. The survey found that 59% of Republicans favored prosecution, while 51% of Democrats did so. People who described themselves as independents were the most divided on the issue, with 34% saying prosecute and 29% saying no.

Politico points out that while it might have been assumed that the percentage favoring prosecution would go down as eduation level rose given the First Amendment issues involved in that prosecution, the reverse was true. While 39% favored prosecution to 16% opposed among those in the "lower education" category, higher educated respondents who took a position favored it by more than 2 to one (53% to 25%).

The concern about the cable leaks are expected to make it tougher to pass a federal shield law, since the definition of journalist and how it applies to blogs and other online content sites was one of the issues that concerned the administration, although a number of the bill's backers say it clearly would not cover WikiLeaks.

The survey was conducted Dec. 3-8 by Penn Schoen Berland among a "representative distribution of 1,000 people in the U.S. and 225 Washington D.C. elites." Margin of error is plus or minus 3.1% for the 1,000 and 6.53% for the elites.

D.C. elites are defined as "people [who] live in the D.C. metropolitan area, are highly educated (college degree or higher), have a high income ($50,000 and up) and work with key political issues/policy decisions, either influencing, analyzing or reporting them."