Poll: Majority oppose NSA, Obama's address had little impact
January 20th, 2014
04:54 PM ET
10 months ago

Poll: Majority oppose NSA, Obama's address had little impact

(CNN) – President Barack Obama's proposed reforms to the National Security Agency have done little to change public opinion about its controversial telephone metadata collection practices, with a new national survey showing a majority of Americans oppose the agency's collection programs.

A Pew Research Center/USA Today poll released Monday indicates that half of respondents have not heard anything about the President's proposed changes. Forty-one percent said they were somewhat familiar with the reforms and only 8% said they had heard a lot.

Fifty-three percent of respondents disapprove of the NSA's collection of telephone and internet data in anti-terrorism efforts.

Last Friday in a speech at the Justice Department, Obama unveiled new guidance for intelligence-gathering as well as reforms intended to balance what he called the nation's vital security needs with concerns over privacy and civil liberties.

For those who had heard about the proposed changes to the intelligence agency's data collect program, 73% said the adjustments would not make a difference in protecting people's privacy. Seventy-nine percent of respondents also said the adjustments would not make it more difficult for the NSA to fight terrorism.

Intelligence leaks from former government contractor Edward Snowden last summer brought the NSA's surveillance program under national scrutiny, prompting the Obama administration's proposed reforms to the agency.

Since the Snowden disclosure, views of the agency have fallen ten points, from 50% in July to 40% in Monday's survey. Last summer, more Americans approved of the agency than disapproved, 50% to 44%. Now, sentiments have flipped with less than half, 40%, approving and 53% disapproving of the agency's collection practices.

Forty-eight percent of respondents said there should be more limits on the government collection of data while 41% said there already are sufficient limits in place.

While the survey as a whole was conducted from January 15-19, questions about the President's changes to the NSA were only asked after Obama's address on January 17. Overall public opinion of the NSA did not change throughout the course of the survey before and after Obama's speech.

According to the poll, the public is divided over the effect of Snowden's leaks, with 45% saying the disclosures have served the public interested and 43% saying they were harmful. The survey also indicates that 56% of Americans want a criminal case brought against Snowden.

The full Pew Research Center survey was conducted from January 15-19 with telephone interviews from 1,504 adults and has a sampling error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.


Filed under: NSA • Obama administration
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Thomas

    The NSA dose not understand " Love ".

    January 20, 2014 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  2. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    They oppose it until we get attacked again. Then they'll be like why wasn't there something in place to prevent this.

    January 20, 2014 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  3. Rick McDaniel

    That's because everyone knew it was entirely a LIE!

    January 20, 2014 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  4. jerrylax

    and obama said he had no idea the extent of NSA listening (spying)…when they report direct to him and he appointed the director? Huh? oh, you can keep your doctor and insurance.

    January 20, 2014 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  5. smith

    Both dems and repubs are dumb when it comes to this issue. Dems hated the patriot act while repubs liked it. Now, the dems like the NSA while the repubs dislike it. The P. Act and the NSA =same thing. This is why I am an Independent. Tired of the double standards by both parties.

    January 20, 2014 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  6. LacrosseMom

    Where was the "majority" when George W. Bush implemented this program of spying on Americans?!

    Hypocrites.

    January 20, 2014 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  7. Gurgyl

    @Rick McDaniel–was WMD not a lie? Listen, nothing wrong with NSA–when it is not wrong with patriot Act.

    January 20, 2014 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  8. g

    NSA is just a money scam for spy companies

    January 20, 2014 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  9. Beth

    Nobody really cares about their privacy. They just say they do because deep down they know they are supposed to. But in reality they couldn't care less, as evidenced by their use of Google and Facebook. These sites are the real violators of our privacy, much more than the NSA. People that really, truly care about their privacy don't used those sites. Instead, they use sites like Ravetree, DuckDuckGo, HushMail, etc. Don't be a fake privacy advocate – be a real one.

    January 20, 2014 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  10. Don Gerard

    I support the massive collection of phone data. It reduces unemployment. It also poses no risk to the general population because there is too much bull out there in data land to mean anything. Anyone with an ounce of sense knows that there is too much info flying around the ethrix, unorganized, etc. and therefore all the hype about privacy is merely media induced to created readers/listeners and gov't backed to keep our attention distracted from the economy and real issues.

    January 20, 2014 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  11. AlgoreLies

    without sugar coating anything, the majority want both Bush II and Obama in jail and three generations of Bush's and Obama's relative and cabinet members descendants thrown out of the country.
    Maybe Israel and Kenya will accept that tripe.
    Period.

    January 20, 2014 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  12. Harold Read

    Obama stated that the NSA does not spy on US citizens.
    Of course this is the same guy who stated that you can keep your policy and/or doctor.

    Until ObamaBots get out of their state of denial, Obama will get away with lying over and over and over again.

    January 20, 2014 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  13. MJ

    The NSA had enough info to prevent 9/11. If another terrorist attack happens it means the gov is not doing their job. Doesn't matter the corrupt two party system has insulated themselves from our VOTE. Like the congress and senate are insulated from public opinion. The NSA is a secret 4 th branch of govt subverting all other three branches.

    January 20, 2014 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  14. Keith

    It doesnt' matter what the public wants, we have lost control of our government. We have no more control of our Government than the people of Russia.

    January 20, 2014 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  15. MJ

    This isn't a pub dem issue it's a libertarian issue hence why the parties are scared and demonizing libertarians. The DEMs and pubs are two side of the same sword and We need a new sword. The gwot terror is a lie. As many people die from falling furniture in America each year as die from terrorist attacks. Wake the hell up. To not vote is the patriotic thing. FYI I voted for Obama and he along with the bush regimes needs to be tried for crimes. He mass media strategy is to all but block any news on this. Next they allow Rogers and difi to just lie without any adversarial . This is the most important issue in our lives. The media makes up scandals on both sides in order to make everyone a one or two issue voter. If you have nothing to worry about and don't do anything wrong and u don't care if NSA spies on u. Please forward me all ur passwords to ur email, bank accounts, etc etc so I can cypher threw them and publish what ever I want.

    January 20, 2014 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  16. ken

    Mr transparent would not allow photos inside the mitch birthday bash....what is mitch and Buh'rack hiding..? he could not tell the truth since he was a boy....never could, never will...

    January 20, 2014 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  17. Jesse

    Obama when this go right is out front when things go wrong there's jay carney saying that the president knew nothing

    January 20, 2014 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  18. Ted Ward

    Has anyone noticed that the BBC's Davos interviews today are answering the question. " Has America lost touch with the world? ". Obama is such a total failure not only domestically but internationally that even the liberal leaning BBC is signaling Obama's incompetence. Stop being a shill for Obama, CNN, wasting time on the Christie sideshow while HUGE issues of global and national significance go UN mentioned.

    January 20, 2014 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  19. Smiley

    We're disgusted with the Surveillance State. Enough is Enough! FREEDOM!!!

    January 20, 2014 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  20. underwaterops

    Sad. Sadder: thinking she is smart, relevant, or in any way helpful for this country.
    .
    She's in it for the money. Quitting her governor job proved that.

    January 20, 2014 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  21. Think4myself

    Just like what Frank said to Murphy Brown..."It's Sarah Palin – forget about it!!!

    January 20, 2014 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  22. chrissy

    The DOD created the NSA in 1952 and it didnt prevent the attack on 9/11 nor the recent Boston Marathon attack so NO i don't see it as a worthwhile expenditure on american citizens!

    January 21, 2014 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  23. Smitty

    The majority just doesn't believe mr lip service. Now hes blaming race, again. @Smith, so true.

    January 21, 2014 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  24. chrissy

    Thats an awfully long time to keep putting much needed and hard earned tax dollars, into something that quite obviously, isn't working! Had it been, it would've caught those two horrific acts, BEFORE they occurred! And if that was not the purpose of the NSA, then i fail to see what that purpose is!

    January 21, 2014 06:22 am at 6:22 am |
  25. JCDavis

    Our government must always have an enemy. Communism was the enemy for decades, then terrorism, and now the American people themselves are the enemy. One only has to look at our unmatched system of prisons to realize it. In the past few decades we have built three prison facilities for every school, and now we have the highest incarceration rate in the world. The American president is not only the world's war maker in chief and assassin in chief, but also its jailer in chief.

    January 21, 2014 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
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