Poll: Majority say phone tracking is 'acceptable'
June 10th, 2013
05:53 PM ET
1 year 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. youngchristianfemale

    Over half the population is ok with the govern spying on its citizens?? This is so unbelievable to me- how can these people be so ASLEEP to whats going on around us? Our entire world is staged, our leaders want to keep infinite secrets while they keep their hands in our back pockets. I am outraged that Americans are sitting back and allowing our civil liberties to be wiped away! I admit I votes for obama but now more than ever I wish i could take that back. This administration is only furthering the police state I despised with bush! WAKE UP PEOPLE! This is not okay, this IS NOT constitutional.

    June 11, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  2. Josh

    Yep the poll seems to be just as correct as how great the economy is doing and that we are all happy with making less money than we were 10 years ago! Hell, I just love to be spied on in the name of defense of freedom, especially when my calls and comments are being monitored by such an outstanding government free of corruption.

    June 11, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  3. BuddyGC

    So the title could have been "majority of voters oppose Internet tracking

    June 11, 2013 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  4. KenMurphy

    They talk about these polls but i dont know anyone that was on them. i believe these polls are made up to make the sheep believe that the gov is on your side.

    June 11, 2013 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  5. Fair is Fair

    ST

    @ Fair is Fair
    Pres.Bush policies was done to what people? Answer: American People
    Pres. Obama is carrying Pres. Bush policies to what people? Answer: The same people Pres. Bush did.
    Tell me where is the difference here?
    -----–
    No difference at all – THAT'S THE POINT. If it was wrong then, it's wrong now. If it was right then, it's right now. You can't have it both ways.

    June 11, 2013 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  6. ST

    My friend: Fair is Fair
    Pres. Bush was right then and Pres. Obama is right now as no one since 9/11, 2001 has lost life through terror excluding the Boston bombing.
    This is not like: don't take my balls; Mom/Dad has to buy you your own balls.

    June 11, 2013 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  7. Name VA865

    WHO knows the solution to THIS issue/problem we're having???

    June 11, 2013 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  8. Fair is Fair

    ST

    My friend: Fair is Fair
    Pres. Bush was right then and Pres. Obama is right now as no one since 9/11, 2001 has lost life through terror excluding the Boston bombing.
    ------
    Not true, if you include Benghazi and Fort Hood (unless, of course, you categorize Fort Hood as "workplace violence"). My original point, ST, was that there's tons of libs who all of the sudden are applauding Bush-era policies now that they're being enforced by the Obama adminstration when they were up in arms about them before. To be fair, there's the opposite happening as well. At least you're consistent. And we can agree to disagree – I think it was wrong under Bush, and I think it's wrong now.

    June 11, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  9. ELRod

    Everyone I have spoken to on this topic is outraged. Each comment section I review on a related story is 99% outrage with a rare one or two comments from youngsters who don't understand what's at stake and see no problem.

    June 11, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  10. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    You have to adapt to the times.
    Used to be that sending people off to war to keep us safe was the way to do things. That's not enough these days.
    Our enemies are coming right into our homes via the internet. They can disrupt our financial system, our government, our way of life wih the push of a key.
    The rules of engagement have changed. We must now put a little more skin in the game. If that means that our government, if compelled, feels the need to look at the activities of some "patriot" a little closer, then so be it.

    June 11, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  11. Anon

    Even though phone tracking is annoying and scary, it protects our beloved nation from most evils foreigners try to bestow upon America. Snowden is a traitor, and should maybe plan his next party to be a house warming party for his new cell in an American prison.

    June 11, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  12. Lizzie

    Dominican mama...... Yes it's alright for you, and you don't mind them looking and tracking your e-mails or phone calls, do you think they make a differance between, what you call a patriot and a follower of this administration.

    June 11, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  13. CC

    I'm sure they administered the poll as "Do you find it acceptable for the government to review phone records in order to stop terrorism?" as opposed to "Do you find it acceptable for the government to monitor all of you private communications without your knowledge?". Two very different ways of asking the same question. The first of the two sure sounds a lot "nicer" and would surely get much more approval by those polled.

    June 11, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  14. Lizzie

    "Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled as they have been during the Bush administration. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. I will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. " – Barack H. Obama, 2008

    June 11, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  15. BrianMemphis

    Amazing people are such sheeple. In 5 years we can all blame the sheeple as they are standing in the way of true progress. But it's America. If people WANT to be stupid, as they have shown themselves with the reelection and acceptance of all that's wrong with this president. Then so be it. We all will suffer for the stupidity of the crowd.

    June 11, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  16. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled as they have been during the Bush administration. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. I will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. " – Barack H. Obama, 2008
    -------------------------------------------------
    And what is your point Lizzie?
    What wrongdoing has the government committed? Everything being gathered is perfectly legal and lawful.
    "Skippy" Snowden is not alleging that the government is MISUSING the information they are entitled to obtain via the Patriot Act.
    So what is your point?
    "Skippy" Snowden is NOT a whistleblower. He is a babblermouth who quite possibly SOLD state secrets that he was SWORN to secrecy about.
    He is NOT a hero nor a patriot because what malfeasance has he prevented that was going on before he opened up our national security to the rest of the world and the highest bidder?
    The Patriot Act is what it is comprised of and it has the LEGAL seal of approval of Congress. NO ONE is alleging that it is being abused.
    So I ask again, WHAT IS YOUR POINT.
    And yes, in answer to your statement it is alright for me that my government is CONTINUING to take the necessary steps to keep us safe.
    Or maybe we should only have been "safe" under W as far as some here are concerned.

    June 11, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  17. Name

    They talk about these polls but i dont know anyone that was on them. i believe these polls are made up to make the sheep believe that the gov is on your side. The CIA had leads on Boston bomber' and look what happen?? They were to busy listening to innocent Americans!!

    June 11, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  18. jess

    This problem might be fixed through real democracy,that means direct democracy, it means people voting their own laws.

    June 11, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  19. j

    This is just as unacceptable as it was under Bush. These programs are ripe for abuse and should be abolished. Terrorism has always existed and taking away freedom and liberty will not change that. The founding fathers warned us against allowing the government to take away are rights. Yes, this is legal and has been going on for years but that doesn't mean it should be allowed to continue. I'm not a slippery slope person, but think where technology will be in 10 more years. How much are we willing to sacrifice in the search for the boogieman?

    June 11, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  20. Tony P

    To get the 56% the question was probably like this:
    If a suspected Islam terrorist phone number is known, should use USA be allowed to track?

    But should ask instead:
    Should USA be allowed to track 99% of it's population all the time even without any evidence of criminal activity?

    June 11, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  21. John Geheran

    An article in the World News Daily repots that Electronic Privacy Information Center has obtained from the Department of Homeland Security its list of “keywords” used by its agents to monitor communications on Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites. What's  revealing about the "keywords" is you'll find “militia” but not “jihad.” In fact, there is no "key word” that links specifically to radical Islam. In a second article the WorldNetDaily exposes how the IRS restored tax-exempt status to CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations). In 2011, the IRS stripped CAIR of this non-profit status for failing to file non-profit tax returns for years. Yet the IRS restored CAIR’s status despite the fact that CAIR still has not filed all the information required for previous years!

    June 11, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  22. wild man

    again with your perry mason numbers and your rigged polls and people actually buy this stuff. unconstitutional laws are not laws plain and simple not that hard to understand unless you're on their pay roll or a mindless government slave.

    June 11, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  23. Steveo

    So the majority thinks phone tracking is acceptable. I wonder just how many of these "majority" would volunteer to go back to using party lines? That wouild make snooping a whole lot easier!

    June 11, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  24. CB

    Ok, so this is the breakdown of the survey?
    48% of those polled are closely or fairly closely following this story and 52% are hardly or not at all??? In other words over half your survey probably has no clue what they're talking about. Great job and even better info. Thanks for misleading the nation and reinforcing ignorance with your headline! It's funny how the NSA can't track the alleged Boston Bombers, but I bet they can pull an innocent Americans phone records and personal habits in a minute. They claim they don't monitor content of phone calls now, but i bet they have it all stored somewhere and will start doing it in the future, if they aren't already, and that is the problem!!! Just ask yourself, how would I feel if the next Hitler was POTUS and he had all this info at his finger tips? Sadly, 60% of our population are total morons, so it's not a question of if but when we make a total psychopath President! PS Hello NSA staff! i hope you're having a great day! Don't write back soon. XOXO

    June 11, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  25. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©™

    I agree that the government has a right to monitor telephone calls and emails to prevent terrorism. I assumed that this was done, and Big Bird is up there for a reason. I want to be safe.

    June 11, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
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