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. Fair is Fair


    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?
    Well put. The irony of taking away freedoms and liberties in the name of protecting freedom and liberty.

    June 11, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  2. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©™

    I think that Edward Snowden's motivation was entirely political, against the current administration. In the best possible light, Snowden is extremely naïve.

    June 11, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  3. What Now

    Critical thinking has truly disappeared. I can not believe just how many people are ready to give this guy a medal and put his rear on a pedestal. First, the only facts we really know are that he violated his contract with the company he worked for and he betrayed his own country by telling information that he swore to keep private. I for one find that deplorable and unprofessional to say the least. Second, he fled to China and has indicated that he will be spilling more beans. Really? Aren't some of you just a little bit concerned that this guy might actually be in this for himself? Unless you have personal knowledge of his motives, you know nothing. Perhaps you should hold off on the condemnation of your own elected government until you have all the facts.

    June 11, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  4. dem

    Out of 1,004 people. lol!

    June 11, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  5. Jc

    Run that same poll in a couple of weeks and then tell me people support this invasion of privacy. What people don't understand is that when one agency gets a subpoena or a court order all the other agencies get access too. All in the name of counter terrorism. But what you don't understand is that the FBI uses the Patriot act to stockpile data. They know who you are cheating with, what you did with your boss, how many times a week you are intimate with your partner, and any secret you may have. All you have to do is type it or say it. Anyone who has been a key witness in a federal trial will tell you how shocking it is what they know about you. Everyone has something they wouldn't want the government to know, big or small, but with the Patriot Act its nearly impossible to keep that info out of their hands. They even build relationship maps on everyone. It's a program that maps out the people you know, how you know them, what your relationship to them entails, how often you talk to them, and links. If someone went to the FBI and said "John Smith's best friends sisters hair dresser is a terrorist" they would know who it was and everything about them before the call ended.

    June 11, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  6. Frank

    I think it is acceptable. Add me to that poll too.

    June 11, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  7. Dave

    I heard some states that I found interesting. Under Bush, only approx 35% of democrats were in favor of these actions, and now over 67% approve. At the same time, roughly 75% of the republicans approved, and now only 58% approve. If you are a democrat or republican and changes your view, why? What has changed from then to know?

    June 11, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  8. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    Violating the 4th amendment is NOT acceptable.

    June 11, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  9. mom007

    What is 1004 people? Like....0.000000001% of the population! This is the funniest excuse for a poll ever!

    June 11, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  10. richard from rancho cordova

    you still have no right to watch me 24/7

    June 11, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  11. richard from rancho cordova

    give me liberty or give me death

    June 11, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  12. Goth vanhellsing

    what a shock that most are not against it,,, that is till the information they thought was private is used against them.

    June 11, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  13. Richard in Houston

    When all of this stuff started under president bush the democrats were against it for personal privacy reasons and were called unpatriotic and were suporting terrorist. Now under president obama the democrats are ok with it and now the republicans are crying about personal privacy. A pox on both parties. This is why people are turned off to both parties.

    June 11, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  14. dannyg

    anyone remember the stazi...they were hitlers goons that investageted their citizens for descenters

    June 11, 2013 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  15. Steveo

    The answer to your question is simply based upon the letter in the White House Currently we have a D, used to be an R. That I, believe is the honest answer!

    June 11, 2013 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  16. Joan

    Americans can talk out of both sides of their brain!! Nobody wants to be attacked by terrorists, but the government is supposed to have crystal balls or fortune tellers to tell them what is going on in the world. We have people in our own country who are terrorists! Get real! Do we live in a glass bubble waiting for something to happen?? Then, when it does, there goes the finger pointing. To me, Obama is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn't. People themselves put all their personal junk on Facebook, etc. Things that I personally don't care about. i don't participate at all. I guess the nay-sayers want everything publicized. Then we can be total sitting targets.

    June 11, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  17. john faust

    I support the goverment

    they don't record what you do, just who you contact, and they only care if that contact is a terrorist

    this helped connect others to the boston bombers, thats a good thing

    i would like no more bombs to go off, do you?

    June 11, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  18. Jeff--Tacoma

    I do have concerns, about how much big brother watches me. However, I've heard nothing so far that would indicate what I would consider intrusive.

    Many of the same people that are having such a hard time with this, are the same people that would be screaming "Why didn't you do more to protect us?" after a terorist attack.

    If the government looking for patterns of my phone calls saves one person in a foiled attack, then so be it. Look all you want. If you tell me I'm not calling my mother enough, we'll have a problem.

    June 11, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  19. Accidental Hypocrite

    "A time comes when silence is betrayal" – MLK

    June 11, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  20. Bob T

    Just proves the old slogan..."The masses are Asses". If you believe this poll you qualify!

    June 11, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  21. Fair is Fair

    john faust

    I support the goverment
    Translation – I'm supported by the government.

    June 11, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  22. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    Democrats Love Gov't Surveillance - As Long As It's Obama, Not Bush...

    June 11, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  23. Rudy NYC

    Goth vanhellsing

    what a shock that most are not against it,,, that is till the information they thought was private is used against them.
    Shocked? They would be the folks who probably read some or all of their "Terms of Use" agreement with their phone carriers. When you sign away your privacy rights, don't go blaming the government. Your signature on a contract means more than any law. BUYER BEWARE.

    June 11, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  24. Javier

    Unfortunately, what this story refused to disclose was that the poll was taken at the welfare office outside of Norfolk, VA

    June 11, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  25. Mo

    hate it!

    June 11, 2013 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
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