Polls show the majority of US citizens support phone spying by government
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Polls show the majority of US citizens support phone spying by government



Polls conducted in June 2013 show that the majority of US citizens support the government’s 7-year monitoring of phone calls and Internet browsing history.

The poll data shows that double the number of people see the investigation of potential threats to national security through terrorism as most important that the intrusion of digital privacy. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was the younger demographic polled who were more in favoured privacy, although the majority – 51% - stilled supported investigation. 45% of those under the age of 30 who were asked said that privacy was more important, compared to just 34% of those over 30.

More than half of those polled supported court orders being used by the government to track phone calls in the United States with the aim of targeting terrorist threats. However while the support for phone monitoring was clear, the issue of recording internet browsing history was not so clear-cut.

The data was collected by the Washington Post and the Pew Research Center, and shows that the view of the American public has not changed since the Bush presidency. A poll conducted in 2006, at the height of the Bush administration, found that 65% of American citizens favored investigation over privacy, which is just three per cent higher than recent polls have found.

The only real change, the poll has showed, is the increase in Republican criticism of federal investigative powers.

On the question of whether specifically the NSA should have the power to obtain secret court orders to monitor cell phone activity, 56% of Americans answered that the practice was acceptable, with 41% disagreeing. On this question, surprisingly, there was little different between age demographics. 

The poll has clearly shown that on the subject of email and internet monitoring, the American public is not in favor of government powers. The program, called PRISM, was used by the federal government to track foreign nationals’ email and web browsing when a terrorist threat is suspected. A majority of 52% of those polled argued that this monitoring was unacceptable, while 45% were in favour of the PRISM program.

The partisan breakdown of the issue of PRISM is very clear, with 51% of Republicans finding the practice unacceptable, compared to just 43% of Democrats having the same view. Independents were the most likely group to object to PRISM, with 60% being against the practice. During the Bush era, Republicans were 53% in favor of the investigation of email activity following the 9/11 attacks, with only 41% of Democrats supporting. 

A total of 1004 US citizens over the age of 18 were polled by the Washington Post and the Pew Research Center, with an error margin of 3.7%.




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