Fatal Conceit

The Fatal Conceit

Polls Show Different Conflicting Results on Whether Americans Approve of NSA Tactics

Posted by Zachary Woodman on June 11, 2013 at 4:20 PM

Last week’s revelations on the NSA’s monitoring of online and phone communications are having a questionable impression on the public with polls showing conflicting results.

 

A Washington Post/Pew Research poll shows that the majority of Americans support the NSA’s intrusions on privacy in the name of national security. The national poll of 1,004 adults found that 56% of Americans find the monitoring of phone records “acceptable.” However, a poll by Rasmussen found that 59% of Americans oppose the practice.

 

The difference lies in the wording of the polls. The Pew poll was whether “NSA getting secret court orders to track calls of millions of Americans” was “Acceptable” or “Not Acceptable—56% thought acceptable 41% said not acceptable. However, the Rasmussen poll’s wording was very different, “The federal government has been secretly collecting the phone records of millions of Americans for national security purposes regardless of whether there is any suspicion of wrongdoing. Do you favor or oppose the government’s secret collecting of these phone records?” 59% said they did not favor it, and just 26% said they support it.

 

What this could mean is that the American people favor the targeted monitoring FISA Court warrants, but do not favor the more broad style of data collection that the NSA did with Verizon; the Pew poll specifically mentioned court orders, and the Rasmussen poll did not. This view is reinforced by the fact that it was asked about monitoring “everyone’s” email, only 45% supported and 52% opposed. However, even if that were the case, it is difficult to believe that the two polls would show such vastly conflicting results. Additionally, a majority of Americans, 62-34%, said generally it is more important for the government to investigate terrorism than protect privacy.

 

Another possible interpretation could be that the majority of the public approves of it but voters do not as the Pew poll was just of adults and the Rasmussen poll was of just likely voters. Regardless, the sheer degree of confliction between the polls is still striking and casts doubt upon what the American people really think of it.

 

A particularly striking result of the Pew poll is how partisan views of the NSA’s intrusions have shifted. In 2006, when Bush was President, 75% of Republicans approved of their intrusions and just 23% opposed while just 37% of Democrats supported and 61% opposed. Today under Obama, support for the NSA has amongst republicans has fallen 23 points to 52% and for Democrats support has almost doubled to 64%. That is partisan hackery and hypocrisy at work. Among key independents, however, support has grown from 44% to 53%, and among the public it has grown from 51% to 56%.

 

References:

Pew Research. “Majority Views NSA Phone Tracking as Acceptable Anti-terror Tactic.” People-Press.org. Pew Research Center: 10 June 2013. Web. 11 June 2013. <http://www.people-press.org/2013/06/10/majority-views-nsa-phone-tracking-as-acceptable-anti-terror-tactic/>

 

Rasmussen Reports. “59% Oppose Government’s Secret Collecting of Phone Records.” RasmussenReports.com. Pulse Opinion Research, LLC: 9 June 2013. Web. 11 June 2013. <http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/june_2013/59_oppose_government_s_secret_collecting_of_phone_records>

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