Most Americans Supportive of Government Phone Tracking, Poll Says
News that the government has amassed records on nearly all telephone calls in the United States for at least seven years and has the ability to tap into Internet traffic has generated little reaction from the public so far, according to new polling data released Monday.
By almost 2 to 1, Americans put a higher priority on investigating “possible terrorist threats” than “not to intrude on personal privacy.” And a majority supports the ability of the government to get court orders to “track calls of millions of Americans to investigate terrorism.” The public is divided more closely on the question of government monitoring of email and other Internet activities, the poll showed.
The poll, done by the Pew Research Center and the Washington Post, shows little change in overall public opinion on the topic since the Bush administration. But there is one significant shift — with a Democrat in the White House, Republicans have become more critical of the government’s powers and Democrats more likely to support them.
Asked if it is more important “for the federal government to investigate possible terrorist threats, even if that intrudes on personal privacy” or for the government “not to intrude on personal privacy, even if that limits its ability to investigate possible terrorist threats,” 62% put the priority on investigating, while 34% sided with privacy. Younger Americans were more likely to favor privacy, but even those younger than 30 favored investigation, 51%-45%.
The overall level of support for making investigation the priority has changed little since 2006, when 65% of Americans in a Washington Post/ABC News poll expressed that view.