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. Namemark

    If it stops one terrorist attack its worthwhile. Listen to my calls all you want, might bore you though

    June 10, 2013 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  2. Jim

    Yeah, and CNN polls called it so well on the gun debate! Almost the exact opposite as I am sure is the case in this one too! LOL!

    June 10, 2013 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  3. lolatignorance

    Please keep grazing on your grass. Give them an inch they will take a mile. The sheep says aaahhhhaahhhaaaa.

    June 10, 2013 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  4. ST

    Majority have nothing or plans to terrorise the nation. The secret they have are normal discussions people always have. No need to worry even if they are spied day and night!

    June 10, 2013 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  5. RandyIA

    I keep hearing, "I have nothing to hide, so the government snooping doesn't bother me." Shouldn't people instead be saying, "I have done nothing wrong, why are you looking at me?" Thought probable cause and due process were part of any search requirement.

    June 10, 2013 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  6. Comment

    I laugh when I see 1000 people surveyed by phone. Seriously? No one answers a phone call survey, period, so those who do very likely do not represent American views. Especially in the 18-29 range.

    June 10, 2013 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  7. Pete

    Remember republicans it was after 9/11 that Bush implimented the Patriot Act,Homeland security against many of us who knew it would affect our liberties,constitutional rights..And remember what republicans said in we who opposed being unpatriotic,unamerican and remember now republicans with the shoe on the other foot and you reap what you sow hypocrites!!

    June 10, 2013 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  8. max

    these programs started under"W". i voted for obama to change the direction of the war on terror. this is not the "hope and change" i voted for.

    June 10, 2013 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  9. loosun

    Ron Paul and others like him focus more on the politics of the leak rather than the reality that surveillance is a necessary tool to protect US security of citizens and its assets from rogue countries and criminals around the world

    June 10, 2013 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  10. art

    So the MSM came out with their BS polls supporting Surveillance. This is WHY Snowden leak it to the Guardian paper. American Media is 200% propagandist!

    June 10, 2013 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  11. dmf

    These are very dangerous times of War on terrorism . What ever national security measures , as matter of policy were made available during GWB 's administration , should be Kosher / Halal for Obama administration . Since these laws help NSA 's phone and internet tracking measures for terrorists , both domestic and foreign enemies of the U. S. included .

    June 10, 2013 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  12. Namedave

    The government said it's not doing it, but wants to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law, the guy who breaks a non story. Had he done this under Bush, he would be a hero of the media and left.

    June 10, 2013 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  13. Name lynn

    Thats wrong about people tracking phone calls, what is wrong with these dizy people. They dont have nothing better to do with tere own business.

    June 10, 2013 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  14. NameGoose

    Obama and his illegal administration must go now!

    June 10, 2013 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  15. just sayin

    so at the same time obama and the democrats are claiming the war on terror has been won and is over, they want to invade the privacy of every american in order to protect them from a war they say is over. wake up america. you are being conned.

    June 10, 2013 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  16. Pat

    This Poll needs to have links to it on the Edward Snowden articles, so people will know the views of Americans when it comes to their security and the lengths we are willing to go to maintain it going forward.
    Without it the time, money and effort done to conduct this poll was all in vain.

    June 10, 2013 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  17. Pat

    Thanks, for providing a view representative of all Americans regarding this important topic.

    June 10, 2013 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  18. Name Uche Agonsi

    Can someone somehow go the memory lane to explain what 'PRIVACY' really means, moreso, outside its criminal content/context........& to what extent this has been infringed upon since the inception of Obama Administration. Dont it feel better to be safe & stay alive under a secured environment than be 'free' & not last for a day. What better security options do America actually have. Are other countries with effective security do it without surveillance.......& what do they really survey.......woods, physical assets alone or does it include the only threat item....human beings. Boy whether you believe it or not America is part of the global village, now wired by networks. This global village is at war......terrorism, economic, social , cultural, name it. Societies need to be protected to enjoy their freedom. Unfortunately the principal threat is human. It then boils down to whether you can eat your cake & have it.:.....I guess the society should realise that there is no effective security this day without a little loss of freedom .......or is there?

    June 10, 2013 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  19. Name Uche Agonsi

    Lets I forget if you desire Snowden to be US President like Sen. Rand Paul & others, then mount the campaign to close down all CCTV cameras, organs like FBI, CIA, NSA, even the police......destroy the entire US aircrafts, ships, etc.....these are all human surveillance gaggets/tools & groups, then you will really feel free with ur privacy.

    June 11, 2013 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  20. Zoglet

    How many people internationally were polled about their views of the US spying on them?

    Or do foreighners rights not matter to the "free"?

    June 11, 2013 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  21. Legendary

    What is more important perceived safety or privacy?

    June 11, 2013 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  22. Name

    Most people are outraged because of this... but keep playing along party lines sniffit

    June 11, 2013 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  23. BornFree

    Enjoy your surveillance sheeple. You all make me sick.

    June 11, 2013 01:04 am at 1:04 am |
  24. Getoverit

    Obviosly they didn'mt ask me...

    June 11, 2013 01:49 am at 1:49 am |
  25. Getoverit

    @ Sniffit

    Your pet names for republicans are so cute. So you're ok with the government knowing when you last took a dump. Hey, more power to ya!.

    June 11, 2013 01:54 am at 1:54 am |
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