Pew poll: 56% support NSA tracking phone calls to hunt for terrorists, near-majority support tracking e-mails

posted at 7:21 pm on June 10, 2013 by Allahpundit

I tweeted the link to this WaPo story and was surprised by how many people seemed surprised by, or even in outright denial about, the results. This has always been a 50/50 issue, more or less; if it wasn’t, The One wouldn’t have dared to trade his Hopenchange cred for PRISM. The only numbers that really move much in the data from year to year aren’t the topline results but the partisan splits, which predictably shift — a lot, as you’ll see below — depending upon which party is at the controls of NSA.

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A caveat: In 2006 the question referred to the feds listening in on calls “without court approval” while in 2013 it mentioned that calls were tracked via “secret court orders.” Court oversight may account for the five-point overall bump in favor, or maybe the more ambiguous phrasing about tracking calls versus listening to them accounts for it. Either way, gaze upon those partisan swings — more than 20 points each for the GOP, a majority of whom at least remain consistent in supporting the program regardless of the president’s party, and for the fraudulent Democrats, who’ve gone from -24 net disapproval under Bush to +30(!) under Obama. That’s over 60 percent against to 60 percent in favor in seven years. Amazing, but not surprising.

I don’t think those numbers will revert fully to 2006 levels if a Republican takes the White House in three years, but they’ll revert to a substantial degree. Figure maybe 65 or 70 percent support among GOPers and 40 or 45 percent support among Dems. It’s a simple question of whether you trust the current commander-in-chief to exercise his surveillance powers responsibly, and that question is answered by partisan affiliation. It shouldn’t work that way — Obama built on Bush’s precedents and the next president will build on Obama’s — but it’s a fact of political life. The same holds true when you adapt this question to ask whether the feds should have power to “monitor” e-mails in the name of preventing terror attacks. Seven years ago, 53 percent of Republicans said yes versus just 41 percent of Democrats. Today, just 45 percent of Republicans agree but 53 percent of Democrats do. The topline number, 45 percent support overall, remained constant but only because a critical 10-15 percent or so on each side flipped and offset each other.

Also interesting is that support for data-mining of phone records and monitoring of e-mails doesn’t vary dramatically among age groups according to Pew, which makes this poll unusual given that young adults tend to be more liberal on most issues. When asked whether the government should prioritize counterterrorism or privacy, 51 percent of the 18-29 group say the former versus just 45 percent who say the latter. (That was the closest margin among the four age groups.) When asked specifically about tracking phone records, young adults are right in line with other age groups at 55 percent support. When asked about e-mails, they’re at 46 percent support — higher than the 30-49 group or the 50-64 group. If you’re expecting the surveillance state to relax as millennials take power, think again.

Like I say, I’m surprised anyone is surprised. What’s truly noteworthy about this poll, I think, is how many people felt comfortable telling a pollster that they support surveillance of phone records and e-mails. I figured every poll on this subject would be more in line with Rasmussen’s result this morning, in which 59 percent of likely voters said they oppose government collecting phone records. That’s the answer many people will sense they’re “supposed” to give when a stranger’s pressing them on their tolerance of governmental invasions of privacy. And yet here’s Pew finding 56 percent willing to tell them okay on phone records and 45 percent on e-mails. If that’s what people are willing to say out loud, how much more are they secretly willing to accept? And even if, somehow, those numbers accurately reflect opinion, how likely is it that significant policy changes will happen on a 50/50-ish issue? Not much to be happy about here if you’re a civil libertarian.


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it’s a good way to do it.
kcewa on June 10, 2013 at 8:51 PM

It doesn’t work for that purpose. Here’s why:

Boston.

Fort Hood.

They didn’t care enough about actual terrorists to stop them. This surveillance isn’t about protecting US.

It’s about protecting the government FROM US.

This poll is horseshit.

dogsoldier on June 11, 2013 at 7:50 AM

“Natural law” is Christian authoritarian lingo for “whatever God wants”.

Armin Tamzarian on June 10, 2013 at 8:47 PM

Goddamn, you are completely ignorant of Christianity, as well as other things. “Natural law” is based on the concept of humans having reason, and being able to come to basic agreements because they exercise that reason to serve their self-interests. It’s precisely the OPPOSITE of “whatever God wants”. Jesus tap dancing Christ, at least know what the hell you’re talking about before you say it stupidly and insultingly anyway.

MadisonConservative on June 10, 2013 at 11:02 PM

Precisely, he’s confused Divine Command Theory:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divine_command_theory

and Natural Law Theory:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_law_theory

I guess that’s what happens when you learn philosophy from a Matt Groening cartoon.

ebrown2 on June 11, 2013 at 7:53 AM

Anybody who believes any poll including the ones of actual counted votes is an idiot.

bgibbs1000 on June 11, 2013 at 8:01 AM

I think we’re having the wrong conversation. We have to make sure that we aren’t being presented with the false choice of A) the feds keeping a data base of all communications, or B) terrorists killing Americans. We should be asking if there is an option C that is capable of providing a better balance between security and freedom.

For example, over the weekend I heard one of the supporters of PRISM provide a scenario involving a US strike on a terrorist camp over seas. After searching the bodies of the dead terrorists, a phone number is found and provided to the intelligence community for analysis. Obviously, one way to A) analyze that phone number would be to run it through a program like PRISM. Another way would be to B) have a method of running that number through the telecoms, and having them provide only the relevant phone data to the intelligence community. If the number is domestic, then a warrant would be required. Option B may require slightly more work on the part of the intelligence community, but it also means that the feds aren’t maintaining a giant database that could potentially violate the 4th amendment.

HarryBackside on June 11, 2013 at 8:02 AM

I also support it. As long as there is proper oversight.

It’s right to be concerned, but I’m not going along with the “we are in a police state!” overreaction.

bluegill on June 10, 2013 at 7:25 PM

After all the scandals we have seen over the past weeks, how can anyone honestly believe the the government can police itself? If you give the government power, that power will be abused.

HarryBackside on June 11, 2013 at 8:08 AM

It is hilarious to see the statistics change with the White House. Politics at its finest.

I think the argument can be broken down as such

Information is power. Information like this has the power to destroy people without needing to use a gun. Having a nation’s secrets in one place is an obviously bad idea. It doesn’t matter whether you trust the government or not. It is a bad idea. Just look at what a few bad apples in the IRS and state department were able to accomplish. Or what Bradley Manning was able to do. You can’t trust people with this much power. Someone, somewhere, will abuse it. It is as guaranteed as anything.

To me, this is like saying we are going to defend against nuclear terrorism by lining our cities with barrels of gasoline. It doesn’t help the cause and its not necessary. Find another way.

tflst5 on June 11, 2013 at 8:13 AM

It’s right to be concerned, but I’m not going along with the “we are in a police state!” overreaction.

bluegill on June 10, 2013 at 7:25 PM

Did the IRS target Obama’s political opposition?

Does the EPA target industries and people Obama is opposed to?

Does the BATF target Obama’s political opposition?

Does the FBI actually stop terrorists?

Does the NSA?

They did manage to catch Elliot Spitzer, but Ambassador Stevens is still unavailable for comment.

dogsoldier on June 11, 2013 at 8:14 AM

I call bull.

I guess the NSA has now found a way to freep polls.

Not that I ever do, but I truly don’t believe this poll. I actively talk to people from both sides of the aisle.

Almost to a person they dislike these tactics and feel it’s wrong and unconstitutional. In fact the most common retort from Democrats was- “see what I was talking about” or “do you agree with me now?”

There was also a poll by our super liberal local news station where about 64% disapproved.

Marcus Traianus on June 11, 2013 at 8:17 AM

After all the scandals we have seen over the past weeks, how can anyone honestly believe the the government can police itself? If you give the government power, that power will be abused.

HarryBackside on June 11, 2013 at 8:08 AM

What you noticed about bluegshrill is why I compared her to Juan Williams on the QotD thread – she didn’t like nor understand it, but it was deserved.

Anyone who has any faith in 0dumba’s nobility or competence is psychologically deficient…

Anti-Control on June 11, 2013 at 8:21 AM

Check it again in about a month. Pols always take a while to move, and this only came out Friday.

Voyager on June 11, 2013 at 8:22 AM

I’m starting to think there are as many, if not more, low-info voters on our side then the left.

Mr. Arrogant on June 11, 2013 at 8:24 AM

I also support it. As long as there is proper oversight.
bluegill on June 10, 2013 at 7:25 PM

You mean proper oversight from the President / administration that…

o Hired AL QAEDA-backed rebels to protect Ambassador Stevens in Benghazi FROM AL QAEDA…abandoned Americans who fought for their lives for 7 hours waiting for help that never came…

o Gave THOUSANDS of weapons to Mexican Drug Cartels, resulting in the deaths o over 300 people so far – to include a U.S. BPA, WHILE waging a ‘war’ to take guns from law-abiding citizens….

o Used the IRS, FBI, ATF, EPA, & DHS recently to target Obama’s ‘enemies’ – the TEA Party, Right to Life groups, Conservatives, & Jewish groups that support Israel…

o whose campaign manager received tax & other personal info collected on Romney which they used against him during the last Presidential campaign — EVEN HARRY REID used Romney’s tax info to attack him from the Senate floor…

o whose Justioce Department lead, Atty General Holder, has perpetrated 3 Felony counts of PERJURY before Congress – is not in jail right now ONLY because his DOJ refused to press charges, & was eventually CENSURED by Congress, making him the 1st Atty General in U.S. history to be Censured…the same Atty General who just perpetrated ANOTHER felony count of Perjury when he claimed not to know about spying on the media only to have it revealed HE signed the subpoena / approval to do so…..

‘PROPER OVERSIGHT’?! WT#?! Dude, WAKE THE H@LL UP!

easyt65 on June 11, 2013 at 8:25 AM

Keep Hope Alive.

Bmore on June 11, 2013 at 8:42 AM

That 56% probably don’t do any critical thinking and follow that to other possibilities whereby a govt who sees all and hears all will know all they need to know about them and then use that knowledge to control them. They must still think that Soc Sec will still be able to support them in their old age.

Kissmygrits on June 11, 2013 at 8:50 AM

easyt65 on June 11, 2013 at 8:25 AM

This ++

Dasher on June 11, 2013 at 8:53 AM

Did anyone see the way the poll questions were written? It was skewing the people toward the NSA surveillance. I think if Snowden claims are true only about 30% of people will be in favor of that type of data mining.

MGardner on June 11, 2013 at 8:57 AM

People do not understand what is actually going on.

GiantOrb on June 10, 2013 at 7:48 PM

Yep.

lynncgb on June 11, 2013 at 9:06 AM

Rand Paul, do not be thrown off by this poll (and don’t think he will). It is a poll as useful as “Are you in favor of world peace?” Or as useful as a poll on background checks following Newtown. Once you get into details the public is likely 55-35 percent against what the NSA is doing.

mwbri on June 11, 2013 at 9:10 AM

Polls are meaningless propaganda. Pew is a leftist org, siamesed with NPR.
This is bullsh1t.

garnkikaloid on June 11, 2013 at 9:15 AM

While this poll isn’t entirely irrelevant as it may drive the MSM to not dig in their heels, it is irellevant to the legality of all this.

IF the Federal Government is seizing private data and information on Americans without a warrant this is a violation of the 4th amendment. A simple majority approving won’t do. Until we start seeing the 70% approve numbers nationwide, I will give these polls less relevance. A Majority cannot trample the constitutional rights of the minority. They must change the constitution which requires more than a simple majority. 2/3 house and senate and 3/4 States must ratify.

If people really want the government to be able to seize private information on millions of Americans, the 4th amendment needs to changed first. There is no discussion on that point. There is no debate on that point.

The SC has ruled that phone records are essentially not protected under the 4th since people esentially are giving a third party (the phone company) access to those records by default(I disagree entirely).

They have not ruled on email communications that I am aware of. I think they would be hard pressed and face a revolt if they told the country at large that they have no expectation of privacy when it comes to their emails.

weaselyone on June 11, 2013 at 9:46 AM

“I was monitoring this polling and it’s totally accurate.”

-NSA

happytobehere on June 11, 2013 at 9:57 AM

Why don’t they ask the following poll questions:

Should the government be able to store your log-in information for your online banking?

Should the government be able to store email communications you have had with your attorney.

Should the government be able to store email communications you have had with your clergy.

weaselyone on June 11, 2013 at 10:03 AM

“I was monitoring this polling and it’s totally accurate.”

-NSA

happytobehere on June 11, 2013 at 9:57 AM

90% of Verizon Customer Cell Phone responses viewed the NSA surveillance programs as “acceptable”.

weaselyone on June 11, 2013 at 10:22 AM

Hogwash.

Amjean on June 11, 2013 at 10:29 AM

….and it doesn’t matter what this bogus poll states….

if our government wants to get rid of the 4th amendment it should not be done in the “dead of night”.

Let’s shed some light on the situation and have adult conversation including all the facts.

Amjean on June 11, 2013 at 10:31 AM

When the NSA is searching their database of purloined emails which key words are more likely to be used as search terms?

Muslim, Islam, jihad or

tea party, conservative, constitutional

Keeping in mind that PC has infiltrated the military and all levels of politics and academia. And considering the type of people who seek work with the government.

If the IRS is as it appears a partisan tool of the administration, would not the NSA also be?

Dasher on June 11, 2013 at 10:50 AM

I guess they couldn’t ‘keep it.’

Resist We Much on June 10, 2013 at 7:29 PM

Indeed–much to the chagrin of the ghost of Benjamin Franklin.

Dime IV on June 11, 2013 at 11:00 AM

That poll is a load of horse shit. When you ask a bunch of uninformed voters you will get the results that you want by the way you ask the question. More syncopants from the MSM covering for their fav dictator, and by the way, shove it NSA.

jistincase on June 11, 2013 at 12:08 PM

People do not understand what is actually going on.

GiantOrb on June 10, 2013 at 7:48 PM

Yep.

lynncgb on June 11, 2013 at 9:06 AM

People are afraid of the obvious and real implications as applied directly to themselves.

workingclass artist on June 11, 2013 at 12:24 PM

Late to this thread. To explain the divergence between the Pew and Rasmussen polls, isn’t there a big difference in question wording? Tracking vs. collecting?

Missy on June 11, 2013 at 12:30 PM

“I was monitoring this polling and it’s totally accurate.”

-NSA

happytobehere on June 11, 2013 at 9:57 AM

“With the help of our friends in the NSA, we are also setting up audits for the people who disagree with the surveillance.”

-IRS

Sterling Holobyte on June 11, 2013 at 12:49 PM

There was a time when the majority supported slavery.

alanstern on June 11, 2013 at 1:13 PM

“I was monitoring this polling and it’s totally accurate.”

-NSA

happytobehere on June 11, 2013 at 9:57 AM

“With the help of our friends in the NSA, we are also setting up audits for the people who disagree with the surveillance.”

-IRS

Sterling Holobyte on June 11, 2013 at 12:49 PM

This isn’t a cage with a hungry rat we are placing on your head…It’s an educational device to help you love your president because loving your leader will make you happy and productive. – NSA

workingclass artist on June 11, 2013 at 1:30 PM

90% of Verizon Customer Cell Phone responses viewed the NSA surveillance programs as “acceptable”.

weaselyone on June 11, 2013 at 10:22 AM

Where did this information come from? I’m a Verizon Cell customer and no one asked my opinion.

pannw on June 11, 2013 at 3:57 PM

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