Fifty-six percent of Americans support the National Security Agency’s phone monitoring, while only 41 percent deem the agency’s actions unacceptable, according to a national survey conducted by the Pew Research Center and The Washington Post.
In comparison, Americans find themselves divided over email monitoring with a majority — 52 percent — condemning the action as unacceptable and 45 percent supporting it.
The survey team questioned 1,004 adults over the phone between June 6-9 seeking to determine whether recent government surveillance scandals have changed the public’s view of the trade-off between vigilance against possible terrorist attacks and an individual’s right to privacy.
According to the June 2013 poll, 62 percent of Americans said the government should investigate terrorism even if it intrudes on privacy, while 34 percent said investigation does not excuse compromising privacy. This percentage has not changed significantly since Pew collected data in 2006 following the Bush administration’s wiretapping scandal.
Americans, however, are more likely to support NSA surveillance under the Obama administration than the Bush administration.
According to the January 2006 poll, only 51 percent of Americans viewed the NSA’s decision to secretly listen in on calls and read emails without court approval as acceptable. The recent June 2013 pole demonstrates that 56 percent of American’s approve of the NSA’s secret court orders to track millions of Americans’ calls, a five-percent increase from 2006.
The views of Republicans and Democrats have also changed significantly over the last seven years.
In January 2006, 74 percent of Republicans supported NSA phone and email monitory to investigate suspected terrorists, while in June 2013 only 52 percent of Republicans condemn the NSA’s actions.
Since January 2006, Democrats have become more supportive of NSA surveillance. In January 2006, 37 percent of Democrats viewed the NSA’s actions as acceptable, while in June 2013 64 percent of Democrats believe it was acceptable for the government to listen in on phone calls and read emails.
The recent survey also revealed that while young people place higher value on privacy, most still support NSA phone tracking.
Forty-five percent of 18-to-29 year-olds believe privacy supersedes government investigations of possible terrorists threats; however, 55 percent still support the acts of the NSA. Comparatively, only 26 percent of people 65 years or older value privacy above government investigation of possible threats.