Obviously, the mere fact that the ACLU was able to commission a poll (that’s via Matt Stoller) showing public support for its positions on surveillance has limited probative value. Advocacy groups can always pull that off. The question is, how did they need to frame the question to get their result:
It turns out that a fairly anodyne wording gets the civil libertarian result:
Traditionally, the law has required a warrant from a court for each individual the government wants to wiretap. Some people want to permanently change this law to allow courts to issue blanket warrants for wiretapping American citizens that would not have to name any specific individual. Do you favor or oppose allowing courts to issue these blanket warrants?
This probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. A lot of people seem to have the idea that the American electorate is ruthlessly authoritarian and will punish any candidate who stands up for civil liberties. In reality, it seems to me that the reverse is true — this is the country where you can’t even do something sensible let have a national ID card or a national gun registration system without people freaking out. Combine that with the fact that the specific president who would be empowered with all this discretion is wildly unpopular, and I don’t see any reason to think there’s an unstoppable public opinion juggernaut here.