Poll: Majority say phone tracking is 'acceptable'
June 10th, 2013
05:53 PM ET
10 months ago

Poll: Majority say phone tracking is 'acceptable'

(CNN) – As the government faces some backlash over its surveillance programs–details of which were leaked last week–a new poll shows Americans have changed little in their views of federal monitoring and more than half indicate they're fine with one of the programs.

Fifty-six percent consider the government's tracking of phone records an "acceptable way" to investigate terrorism, according to the new national survey released Monday by the Pew Research Center and The Washington Post.

The public is less supportive, however, of the government's ability to monitor email, according to the poll.

The survey was conducted Thursday through Sunday, as information about the federal surveillance programs was being published by The Guardian and The Washington Post.

The story that first broke Thursday revealed the government had obtained a court order demanding that Verizon Business Network Services turn over details of phone calls from April to July. Intelligence officials later confirmed the program, which analysts say likely covers all U.S. carriers.

Another National Security Agency program, PRISM, allows analysts to extract the details of people's online activities - including "audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents" and other materials - from computers at Microsoft, Google, Apple and other Internet firms.

Asked in the survey if the government should be able to monitor emails to prevent possible terrorism, 45% say "yes," while 52% say "no." Those numbers are relatively unchanged from a similar questioned asked in July 2002, less than a year after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S.

The poll finds "no indications" that last week's reports "have altered fundamental public views about the tradeoff between investigating possible terrorism and protecting personal privacy," according to Pew.

Sixty-two percent of Americans say they favor investigating terrorist threats over not intruding privacy, while 34% say the opposite. Those numbers have also changed little from Pew polls taken in November 2010 and January 2006.

Younger Americans are more supportive of privacy–even if that limits the government's ability to investigate threats–than older Americans in general, but when asked specific questions about phone records and Internet monitoring, there is little difference between the age groups, according to the survey.

But younger people aren't following the story as closely as older Americans. Only 12% of 18-29-year-olds are keeping up with the phone records story, while 56% are not paying attention to it at all.

Pew interviewed 1,004 adults by telephone between June 6 and June 9. The poll has a sampling error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

– CNN's Ashley Killough and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.


Filed under: NSA • Polls
soundoff (157 Responses)
  1. charlies curry

    It's sad seeing Americans at each other like this .A time will come my friends black,white brown and red .there will be no (Dem) or (GOP) just Americans Standing together .My friends we have been fooled, hogwashed, these people on(Hill ) Don't care about your hardships its all about power over you!!a game there buddies they get a kick out of common men bickering as Long has you all stay fool'ed and fight with each other the richer they get in the end.i am not surprised at they knew about this and nether the Dem,or GOP said nothing its more power handed to them.

    June 11, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  2. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    How about you track all the illegals in this country instead of it's citizens.

    June 11, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  3. Rudy NYC

    Try searching the web for Gallup Poll , dated February 24, 2006. It is very similar to this one. It asks whether or not Americans approve of the Bush administrations warrantless wiretapping.

    53% of respondents approved, with 46% disapproving of the warrantless wiretapping.

    June 11, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  4. gaycontentwriter

    Propaganda. Obvious and blatant too, not even inspired, just lazy bs put out by another government contractor.

    June 11, 2013 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  5. keltic1

    The Courts are the final arbiter on any law & the ACLU has just filed a case against Obama for violating the 4th Amendment.

    June 11, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  6. Danielle

    It would be nice if you told your audience that your polls include 1004 people's responses and are from 2006!

    June 12, 2013 02:37 am at 2:37 am |
  7. Ian

    This "survey" is an outright LIE. PEW has always worked with the Govt. Just as the Carnegie-Mellon Group, etc. People are Outraged that the Government is Stalking us. The People have no Power. This country IS NOT a Democracy. President Obama has continuously LIED to the American people and to the World. I voted for President Obama..believe his Lies.. Now I want him Charged for TREASON to the American people. He has continuously lied to the American people and we are tied of being treated like Tracked Slaves

    June 12, 2013 03:06 am at 3:06 am |
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