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. Really

    Everybody knows the results would be skewed in the other direction if a Republican was in the White House. Get a clue Liberals.

    June 10, 2013 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  2. Jules

    Hello – tracking or getting blown up or blown out of the sky or whatever some nutcase decides to do. I choose tracking.

    June 10, 2013 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  3. jimmyjimbojohnbob

    They obviously didn't poll my area.

    June 10, 2013 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  4. Sandy

    Teflon Obama! Poor republicans. LOL

    June 10, 2013 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  5. Mike jones

    CNN will dig out whatever statistic they can to spread their leftist propaganda. Only the naive think that this is an objective news source.

    June 10, 2013 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    This is crazy, I think the people who are voting for this stuff doesn't know the full extent of the technology and what it can do. The gov is overstepping easily. They need to invole the public more in building certain devices like this not blind side everyone.

    Plus these polls are so bad its typically a "yes " or no response and a majority of the people have no clue.

    June 10, 2013 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  7. RonFromNM

    This just in: 56% of Americans are "OK" with repealing the Bill of Rights.

    June 10, 2013 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  8. obama mama rethinking (actually starting to think)

    Please stop being hypocritical Dems–bad of Bush did it, good if obama is behind it. If you don't see harassment and intimidation (DOJ, EPA and IRS).... as well as collecting ALL data without probable cause as a red flag, then you are a lemming.

    June 10, 2013 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  9. Data Driven

    There you have it. The majority don't care. They didn't care 10 years ago and they don't care now.

    Remember War on Terra, conservatives? Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind. Just don't come crying to me about it.

    June 10, 2013 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  10. ghost

    The GOP either fails to believe the American people are not interested or they just do not care whether or not we care less about the scandals and whole lot more about JOBS. Where are the JOBS?????????

    June 10, 2013 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  11. d MexAmer

    If you have nothing to hide,it shouldn't bother you.simple as that.National security.The end justify the means.

    June 10, 2013 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  12. la la lam

    Sorry to break it to you Sniffit, most of the educated voters already understand no scandal here, the only people that have to worry about their privacy are the ones make international phone calls to some place in west Asia.

    June 10, 2013 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  13. Marty, FL

    Another fabricated "scandal" by absurd media. I could not care less if my calls logs and times are followed...yawn.

    However, if someone else is making questionable calls to terrorist organizations, it seems that would be worthy of monitoring for national security.

    June 10, 2013 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  14. don

    I don't know who the hell you think you're fooling. there's not one person I know that accept the fact our government is stealing and stripping are personal information. how the hell could me calling my own kids phone help them solve a terror problem. old is another big waste of money. I guess now we know where they added all the job

    June 10, 2013 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  15. lottie

    make up your minds. How should be combat terror??? You can't have it both ways. Besides you already have most of your info out on the internet anyway.

    June 10, 2013 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  16. Necronn99

    This is why we live in a Republic Democracy .

    June 10, 2013 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  17. lottie

    my concern is how did a high school drop out get a high clearance job. Or is this guy just making it up as he goes. ??Didn't he have to take an oath? Shouldn't that matter?

    June 10, 2013 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  18. Rob Shircliff

    It is healthy for Americans to challenge their leaders in areas of concern ,like the 1st 2nd and 4th amendments. The hysterical defense of Obama and Holder is a bit troubling when taken in total with the IRS ,IP scandal and this. The problem is not the President but the intelligence and Defense industry. So.., anyone thing it appropriate that high level IRS met with Obama's campaign manager?

    June 10, 2013 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  19. Greatballsofire

    There's a choice, either blindly trust the governments shadowy policy or side with a traitor, that's some shaky ground.

    June 10, 2013 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  20. Evergreen

    Do those Bush supporters now understand why the rest of us did not like President Bush? The Patriot Act, 2 unfunded wars, etc., yet you voted for him twice.

    June 10, 2013 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  21. CaliforniaAC

    Now that is dumb– get the terrorists off the phones and onto the internet: that's where the action is. No one is liste,ning to your phone call, but social media is tracked by the providers to sell you stuff. Terrrorist will feast on it using our email ids, which can be easily stolen.

    June 10, 2013 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  22. GOP = Greed Over People

    "Wire-tapping" and " outrage over "invasion of privacy"? Really?

    If you have ever used a cellular phone or surfed the 'net on a WI-FI enabled device, your "privacy" was subjected to invasion by any tech savy 14 year old nerd!

    So, to all the hair-on-fire, low information, outraged cell phone users, below is a key word, that if you find in any device description, you own or may consider owning, should be avoided at all cost, if your privacy is of a major concern.

    Since this is an international blog and to assure privacy, I have encrypted the clue word below:


    Hint 1 You may need to buy at least one vowel.
    Hint 2 Google "vowel"
    Hint 3 Goog... Oh, never mind.

    June 10, 2013 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  23. Alex

    I dont understand why so people are so shocked by this. Wasn't this information made known during the Bush Administration? Where was the outrage then? Look, its pretty obvious to conclude that Republicans will suddenly flip in opposition to this, when they STRONGLY supported this type of NSA monitoring n the past. Democrats will likely do the same, in reverse. America has become so partisan we cant even have a reasonable debate without the media running stories about "political fallout, and Obama's list of scandals." In my opinion, Obama as NO scandals. A scandal requires evidence of wrong doing, and the GOP has failed to produce that evidence. If America really wants a true democracy, it starts with the people. Right now, people are so blinded by political ideology, they are incapable of having an honest debate.

    June 10, 2013 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  24. TooCool

    I have worked in a government office before, and I know there's no way they can staff enough people to look at every piece of information they requested. Like w/ the IRS "scandal" they probably set keywords that trigger flags to go up and filter out inconsequential stuff.

    I can barely keep up w/ my own correspondence & communications, do the paranoid folks out there really think there's a gov't agent assigned to scrutinize each and every one of their mundane lives? If they really are patriotic, honest, good folks? Ain't nobody got time for that.

    June 10, 2013 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  25. Expat American

    If you have nothing to worry about; then you have nothing to worry about. DHS isn't looking for middle age balding guys calling their young pretty interns looking to set up a clandestine rendez-vous.

    June 10, 2013 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
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