Surveillance

Nation split on NSA monitoring

eye through wall

A new poll reveals divided opinions on whether the NSA's monitoring of Americans is acceptable. (Stock image)

The revelation that the National Security Agency has the records of millions of Americans' phone calls hasn't significantly affected public opinions towards government surveillance to fight terrorism, according to a poll conducted last week by the Pew Research Center and the Washington Post.

The poll showed that 56 percent of Americans believe that the government's getting secret court orders to track the phone calls of millions of Americans is acceptable. In a 2006 poll by ABC News and the Washington Post, only 51 percent of Americans thought the surveillance under President George W. Bush, which included listening to phone calls and reading emails without court approval, was acceptable. Forty one percent of Americans believe the current tracking system is unacceptable, according to last week's poll.

However, when asked if they support monitoring of email and other online activities, support drops to 45 percent, with 52 percent opposed.

The poll "finds no indications that last week's revelations of the government's collection of phone records and internet data have altered fundamental public views about the tradeoff between investigating possible terrorism and protecting personal privacy," the Pew Research Center said.

In 2006, 2009 and 2013, more than 60 percent of Americans believed investigating terrorist threats was more important than protecting privacy, according to information from both polls. The amount of people who believed that privacy is more important hovered around 30 percent.

The latest poll showed that the percentage of Americans who believe government tracking of phone calls is acceptable increases to 61 percent for people 65 or older.

Data Point

Question: Do you think the U.S. government should be able to monitor everyone’s email and other online activities if officials say this might prevent future terrorist attacks?

Legend
Yes 45%
No 52%
Don't Know 3%
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SOURCE: Pew Research Center/Washington Post poll.

About the Author

Reid Davenport is a former FCW editorial fellow. Connect with him on Twitter: @ReidDavenport.

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