What Public Opinion on Assange Tells Us About the US Government Direction

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by Eric Zuesse, Strategic Culture:

If Trump turns out to be hostile towards Assange, as most people expect, then a reasonable conclusion would be that Trump is more concerned about retaining in the 2020 Presidential contest the financial backing of America’s billionaires, the mega-donors (who hate Assange and what he stands for) than of retaining his existing voter-support.

The only extensive poll of public opinion regarding Julian Assange or Wikileaks was Reuters/Ipsos on 26 April 2011, “WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange is not a criminal: global poll”, and it sampled around a thousand individuals in each of 23 countries — a total of 18,829 respondents. The Reuters news-report was vague, and not linked to any detailed presentation of the poll-findings, but it did say that “US respondents had a far more critical view” against Wikileaks than in any other country, and that the view by Americans was 69% “believing Assange should be charged and 61 percent opposing WikiLeaks’ mission.” Buried elsewhere on the Web was this detailed presentation of Ipsos’s findings in that poll:

Oppose Wikileaks:

61% US

38% UK

33% Canada

32% Poland

32% Belgium

31% Saudi Arabia

30% Japan

30% France

27% Indonesia

26% Italy

25% Germany

24% Sweden

24% Australia

22% Hungary

22% Brazil

21% Turkey

21% S. Korea

16% Mexico

16% Argentina

15% Spain

15% Russia

15% India

12% S. Africa

In other words: whereas, of all 23 countries, the US was #1 with 61% opposing Wikileaks, the #2 anti-Wikileaks country, UK, was 38% opposing Wikileaks — a huge drop-off from the #1 — and, from there downward, each country differed from its more-anti-Wikileaks neighbor only very slightly. So: the US was a unique anti-Wikileaks stand-out there. And, whereas 42% of Americans considered Wikileaks to be “Criminals,” only 20% of UK residents did. No other country showed higher than 20% — UK was #2 on that anti-Wikileaks factor, too. Consequently, a reasonable inference would be that America’s national news-media were vastly more hostile toward Wikileaks than the news-media in any other country were. And this poll was in 2011 — prior to any partisan issue concerning the 2016 US Presidential contest. This is evidence that America’s news-media are extraordinarily anti-Wikipedia. Americans have been far more indoctrinated against Wikipedia than the people in other countries have been.

On 25 October 2016 — now well into the 2016 US Presidential contest — another British polling organization, this being YouGov, headlined “Turnaround in public opinion on latest Wikileaks” and reported that,

“Americans tend to approve of the release of Podesta’s emails, in stark contrast to their disapproval of the leaking of State Department cables in 2010. The release of John Podesta’s emails has proven embarrassing for the Hillary Clinton campaign, particularly the revelation of the contents of her secret speeches to banks and her aides’ strategizing over her own e-mail scandal, among other issues. Thanks to ongoing controversies surrounding Donald Trump, Clinton has largely managed to avoid having to engage with the issue, but reports from intelligence agencies suggest that the leaks may have a broader, geopolitical relevance: Russian intelligence services are suspected of being behind the hacking of Podesta’s email account.”

“The American intelligence community has widely agreed that Russia is, in some way, behind the hacking of John Podesta’s emails. Few Americans are convinced by this, however. Only 33% of Americans believe that Russia was behind the leaks. Most Democrats (59%) believe that the Russians were behind the leak, while only 11% of Republicans agree.”

Republicans now were vastly less-hostile toward Wikileaks than Democrats were: Whereas Democrats were unfavorable toward Wikileaks by 49%/20%, Republicans were favorable toward Wikileaks by 61%/17% — even more favorable than Democrats were unfavorable.

This partisan difference might, however, have subsided. The polling is sparse and unclear. The US is overwhelmingly more hostile toward Wikileaks than any other country is, but its polling organizations aren’t wanting to report this but instead to ignore Wikileaks as much as possible. A slight break occurred in that on 20 November 2018, when the American pollster Rasmussen headlined “46% Want to Prosecute WikiLeaker Julian Assange” and reported that only half as many Americans, 24%, didn’t. But no Party breakdown was given.

Here are the findings from an online poll at the Democratic Party ’news’-site MSNBC, on the very day that Donald Trump’s people used Theresa May’s people to grab Assange from Lenin Moreno’s Ecuadoran Embassy in UK on 11 April 2019:

Should Julian Assange be prosecuted for his involvement in WikiLeaks?

3,203 votes [as of noon 11 April 2019]

Yes, he is a criminal.

360 votes

No, he is a whistleblower and deserves protection.

2,843 votes

11% against Assange; 89% for Assange

That presumably oversamples Democrats, and so the strong pro-Assange finding in that poll doesn’t fit the previous finding that Republicans are less hostile toward Assange than Democrats are.

To judge by the over 12,000 reader-comments at the Republican ’news’-site Fox News’s April 11th “WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange arrested after Ecuador withdraws asylum”, there is strong, but not overwhelming, support for Trump’s prosecuting Assange. Trump therefore seems unlikely to lose much of his Republican Party base for destroying Assange.

The libertarian site, InfoWars, headlined “WILL TRUMP PARDON JULIAN ASSANGE? President to side with his base or the deep state?” and the very predominantly pro-Assange sentiment that was displayed in the reader-comments was intense. Trump would definitely lose some of those supporters (libertarians) if he destroys Assange.

The Trump-base site (which is even more pro-Trump than pro-Republican) Breitbart headlined “WikiLeaks Publisher Julian Assange Arrested by British Authorities”, and the most up-voted or “Best” of the many thousands of reader-comments there was “Hopefully, he will be extradited to the US so he can work with the Barr team to expose Obama and his administration for illegally spying on the Trump campaign in exchange for immunity.” By noon-time, it had around 700 up-votes. Consequently, if Trump fails to support Assange, then Trump will likely lose some of his existing voter-base.

The Trump team obviously are now in control of Assange’s fate, and they are doing Trump’s will regarding Assange. If the MSNBC online poll is any indication, Trump could actually expand his base — even gain some support from Democratic Party voters — by freeing Assange, either by means of his team’s legal actions, or else by means of a Presidential pardon.

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