We don’t really want to know

Poll graphic: globeandmail.com 

I don’t know about you, but I find the trend in today’s globeandmail.com poll quite disturbing.

As of early this afternoon, more than three quarters of respondents felt it was NEVER acceptable for “a bureaucrat or employee to leak sensitive internal documents”. Barely one in five thought it would be acceptable if the leak were “in the public interest”. That’s based on 27,459 responses.

So what’s this telling us?

  • Are Canadians overwhelmingly inclined to obey authority, no matter the consequences?
  • Are they content with the information that journalists are able to compile unaided, or that companies and governments are prepared to dispense?
  • Maybe it’s a privacy issue, with people fearing that their personal data could be revealed.
  • I suspect most respondents so far have been viewing the poll from work computers and may be taking a cautious approach. It will be interesting to see if proportions change when more people are at home at the end of the day.

Canada has a new Federal Accountability Act, proclaimed last December, which includes provisions to protect whistleblowers working for the federal government. But perhaps Canadians aren’t convinced that’s such a good idea. A fascinating area for further research.

UPDATE – May 16, 2007 – Later results showed a slight swing in favour of leaking in the public interest:

  • Always: 2%, 589 votes
  • If in the public interest: 22%, 6373 votes
  • Never: 76%, 22097 votes
  • Total: 29059 votes