In the days following the big National Security Agency leak about the government’s mass collection of phone records, Pew Research Center and The Washington Post conducted a survey that found 56 percent of Americans are in support of the NSA’s actions.
The poll results, released Monday, show that the majority of Americans are for the government tracking phone records for the sake of national security, while 41 percent are against it. The recent leak highlighted the public’s concerns regarding the balance between personal privacy and national protection, but it is now clear that the public places more emphasis on the latter.
The leaked information warned that the government is recording phone record data, as well as some email records, of millions of Americans without court orders. For 34 percent of respondents polled, the government’s infringement on personal privacy is unacceptable, even for the purpose of national protection. Sixty-two percent, on the other hand, believe personal privacy is less important than the government’s investigation of imminent terrorist threats.
The support for this type of information gathering has increased since 2006, when a Washington Post/ABC News poll showed that only 51 percent of Americans were in favor of George W. Bush’s terrorist surveillance program, which allowed the NSA to secretly listen in on phone calls and read emails.
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Another notable finding of the poll results is that partisan support for collecting phone records has flipped-flopped over the past seven years. In 2006, 75 percent of Republicans and 37 percent of Democrats were in favor of the NSA collecting phone data, but now 52 percent of Republicans and 64 percent of Democrats are in favor.
Tracking emails, however, is a much different issue than phone records and has much less public support. According to the poll, only 45 percent of Americans think the NSA should track email records and 47 percent find it unacceptable.