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Widely divergent polls suggest that most Americans are ambivalent about NSA surveillance

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When the Pew Research Center released a poll the other day showing majority approval of the National Security Administration’s program tracking the phone records of millions of Americans as a hedge against terrorism, I expressed SURPRISE.

I was surprised again yesterday when Gallup came out with a poll SHOWING MUCH DIFFERENT RESULTS.

And then I ran across a third poll this morning, this one from CBS, which only ADDS TO THE CONFUSION.

The CBS survey shows majority support for monitoring the phone records of suspected terrorists, but not those of ordinary Americans. And yet there was also this:

Asked if the government has gone too far in infringing on people’s privacy in its efforts to fight terrorism, 46 percent think the balance is about right, but 36 percent say the government has gone too far. Just 13 percent think the government hasn’t gone far enough.

And the following suggests that some people feel that government surveillance efforts are making terrorist attacks a little less likely:

Belief that a terror attack in the U.S. is likely within the next few months has dropped since the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings. Now 16 percent think such an attack is very likely, down from 24 percent in April.

All of this divergence of public opinion suggests to me that the situation is fluid and that many Americans are somewhat ambivalent about the matter. That also pertains to my own attitude.

On several occasions in the past week, I’ve said  that this controversy boils down to a few basic questions: How much government snooping is acceptable as a safeguard against terrorism? A lot? A little? None?

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4 Comments

  1. Neftali

    Well, we know one person that is against NSA surveillance…our own Vice President Joe Biden.

    In 2006 he made the following statements:

    “‘Don’t count me in’ on trusting NSA phone call surveillance”

    and

    ““If I know every single phone call you’ve made, I’m able to determine every single person you’ve talked to; I can get a pattern about your life that is very, very intrusive. And the real question here, is what do they do with this information that they collect – that does not have anything to do with al-Qaeda? And we’re gonna trust the president and the vice president that they’re doing the right thing? Don’t count me in on that.”

    I wonder if he will join with the ACLU in the class action lawsuit against the NSA?

    http://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security/flashback-biden-agrees-access-metadata-very-very-intrusive-video

  2. Neftali: There are also a lot of conservatives, including some of the pundits at Fox News, who thought NSA surveillance programs under George W. Bush were just dandy but sing a different tune these days.

  3. Robert

    If these programs were really about tracking terrorist, we wouldn’t see this kind of hypocrisy. Information is big money these days. The more information you have on the people, the more money you can make selling it to the various corporations and federal agencies seeking that information. I can’t imagine when places like Yahoo and FB get NSA request for documents, they don’t get a fee for having to pull such data? I suspect It’s mostly about money, with the exception of our interest in thwarting the hacking of our computer systems, particularly the banks and corporations that have trade secrets, but beyond that the data mining of our activities is more about making money off that information, than it is about catching terrorist.

    If it wasn’t then we wouldn’t see the hypocrisy’s we do from our legislators. ( I’d still like to know why this NSA system didn’t catch the Boston bombers before they did their deed.) We are being told the NSA system has thwarted dozens of terrorist attacks but I can’t imagine why we have seen those dozens of cases bragged about and smeared across every tv and computer screen in America as proof of its success as a anti-terrorism tool. All it is, is the TIA system repackaged to sell it better to the people.)

    “WASHINGTON — Just months after many U.S. senators opposed tougher background checks for gun buyers on the grounds that they would tread on Americans’ liberties, many of them are standing behind the far more intrusive intelligence-gathering programs of the National Security Agency.”

    Have our legislators always been this morally and ethically corrupted?

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/12/nsa-senators_n_3428074.html

  4. Neftali

    Pat – Who is the biggest hypocrite? An unelected Fox News pundit with declining ratings (Hannity), or the VP of the free world who was elected twice by the majority of people in this country?

    No need to answer.

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