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OTTAWA — Edward Snowden, who leaked what he contends are privacy violations by the U.S. government, is a whistleblower, not a traitor, according to the majority of Canadian respondents in a new survey.

The survey by Abacus Data found 60% of Canadians sided with Snowden, versus 15% who consider the 29-year-old a traitor for releasing data when he worked with the National Security Agency.

Less than one quarter of those polled believe Snowden should be prosecuted for breaking American law, and the survey found little variation among age, gender and other groupings.

Those surveyed also appear to have a healthy tolerance for government spying initiatives, so long as the spying is directly linked to preventing acts of terrorism.

In that, there were wide generational differences in the answers, with younger Canadians surveyed far more concerned with protecting their privacy than older ones.

Only 15% of polled Canadians between ages 18 and 29 said the government should monitor online activity if it might prevent terrorist attacks, compared with more than double that in the age 30 to 44 category (34%). Older Canadians aged 45 to 59 were the most comfortable in the survey with the idea of online activity being monitored by the government.

Answers on personal privacy and terrorism showed divided results based somewhat along party lines.

Surveyed Conservative and Liberal party supporters were both more likely to sacrifice some personal privacy in the interest of fighting terrorism, while NDP and Bloc Quebecois supporters generally favoured personal privacy.

“A majority of Canadians believe that it is more important for the federal government to investigate possible terrorist threats, even if that intrudes on personal privacy than for the government to not intrude on personal privacy,” Abacus Data said in a release.

And yet, “almost a majority oppose the idea of mass monitoring of online activity even if officials say this might prevent future terrorist attacks.”

In other words: “Canadians would welcome targeted online surveillance of suspected terrorist threats but would oppose a broader program of online surveillance.”

The poll surveyed 999 Canadians between June 19 and 23. The pollster weighted the survey sample by age, gender, region and education level according to the most recent census data. This method is widely used is believed to be capable of producing accurate results.

Good Decisions Require Good Data.