Poll: Majority say phone tracking is 'acceptable'
June 10th, 2013
05:53 PM ET
5 years 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. Sniffit

    Please cry wolf more GOPers/Teatrolls. You have NOBODY listening to your "scandal" blather in no time. Please proceed.

    June 10, 2013 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  2. DumbDumbDumbDem&RepVoters

    I do not consent to the government or the moronic publicly educated public to use my phone information.

    June 10, 2013 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  3. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    Yeah if you're a liberal. They didn't think that when Bush was in office though.


    June 10, 2013 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  4. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    Everyday a new scandal comes out with this administration.

    June 10, 2013 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  5. us_1776

    It's too bad that the people who think phone tracking is ok didn't live through the McCarthy era.

    They would quickly change their minds.


    June 10, 2013 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  6. johnnypotseed

    News flash, the majority of Americans deserve neither safety nor freedom....B. Franklin

    June 10, 2013 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  7. The Times

    The New York Times is listening. A two time endorser of obomba. After this scandal broke they no longer are behind him and his admin stating that " this admin has no credibility". Trust me. Alotta people are paying attention

    June 10, 2013 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  8. GI Joe

    I thought everyone with a brain knew about this years ago.

    Shows how many brainless people we have in this country. And they are allowed to reproduce?

    June 10, 2013 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  9. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Listening to my phone conversations if certain key words are strung together and raise a flag? Go right the hell ahead.
    The same goes for that picture you take of me everytime I use my ATM machine, and the pictures you take of me when I'md riving down the street.
    MISUSE of any information gathered for purposes other than the intended purposes under the Patriot Act, ie the national security of my country, THAT I would throw a hissy fit about.
    As far as I know that has not occurred.
    Carry on.

    June 10, 2013 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  10. Thomas

    "scandal" ?

    I'm ok with it .

    June 10, 2013 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  11. Taargus

    This is how democracy dies

    June 10, 2013 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  12. Gurgyl

    GOP got to be idiots. Nothing wrong if done in good faith for the protection of "NATIONAL-SECURITY". I think we need to get hold of these TAX-CHEATS. Obama–you do it–you have guts.

    June 10, 2013 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  13. eve

    The MAJORITY did not say this was acceptable, although you are clearly trying to persuade people that this is the case, when it is not. Amazing how we are lied to by the media on a daily basis.

    June 10, 2013 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  14. mary

    52% are against this, and the last time I looked – that was the majority! Prouder than ever to be a Republican!

    June 10, 2013 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  15. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    60% polled were messiah (die hard) followers.

    June 10, 2013 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  16. Propaganda

    *This is not a scientific poll.

    June 10, 2013 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  17. Anthony in California

    Ha. Another GOP "scandal" that people dont care about.
    Yup.... who'd have thought Americans would valuable their safety over their privacy...

    Cant have it both ways (according to the founding fathers)...

    June 10, 2013 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  18. Donald Berrian

    The majority will never take the risk or the time to preserve a free society. It wasn't any different in 1776. It has never been the majority that the government fears but the minority who actually care enough to do something about it. The NSA's system is perfect for identifying potential trouble makers who might start political movements and put a stop to them. It has obviously proved useless at catching terrorists but it is ideal for other purposes.

    June 10, 2013 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    This should make the "Right" understand why the "Left" dislike Bush. The Patriot Act and 2 unfunded wars among other reasons. Then he was re-elected.

    June 10, 2013 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  20. johnsmith

    The majority of Americans are unable to pour bodily fluids out of a boot with the instructions printed on the bottom of the boot. No surprise with this.

    June 10, 2013 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  21. U.S. Citizen

    The majority says it's OK to strip privacy rights from the minority.
    Mob rule is not what this Nation was founded upon.

    June 10, 2013 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  22. Computer DNA Sequenced By Rebel Hackers

    Wonder when saying, email, or texting bad stuff about the government will be classed as terrorism?

    And how many degrees of separation puts you in the clear, if a friend of a friend of a friend is a suspect? 6? 10? none?

    June 10, 2013 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  23. Borderless

    There is nothing acceptable about this. Fools who still think of Obama as a liberal and support his far-from-liberal actions as president should seriously rethink their political ideology.

    June 10, 2013 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  24. Rick McDaniel

    The problem we have here.........is that this tracking was NOT being done for security.........it was being done for political purposes.

    June 10, 2013 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  25. Chaz

    I don't believe that for a second

    June 10, 2013 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
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