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6 in 10 Americans Don't See Anything Wrong With Mass Government Surveillance 6 in 10 Americans Don't See Anything Wrong With Mass Government Survei...

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Politics

6 in 10 Americans Don't See Anything Wrong With Mass Government Surveillance

Really?

(Patrick Semansky/AP)

photo of Brian Fung
June 10, 2013

The first polling on the National Security Agency surveillance leak is out, and despite almost unanimous cries of outrage from the press and civil-liberties advocates, the rest of America seems decidedly "meh" on the matter.

SHARK300200.jpg(Pew)

Over half of us—56 percent, to be exact—think that serving phone companies with a secret court order to surrender customer phone records is an "acceptable" way to fight terrorism, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center. While 41 percent oppose the NSA surveillance program specifically, a much broader swath of the country is generally willing to sacrifice privacy for security. Sixty-two percent say they'd rather the government intrude on their privacy if it means making it easier to investigate terrorist threats.

This attitude might reflect, in part, a growing awareness that our control over privacy is slipping away as companies and services increasingly learn more about us and our behavior. What's another gigantic organization or two?

 

But the survey also reveals some fascinating demographic information. Out of the age groups surveyed, young people are both the least likely to be following the surveillance news closely and the most likely to say they highly value their privacy. Predictably, Democrats say they're supportive of the policy more often than Republicans do—and Republicans were far more supportive of the NSA's warrantless wiretapping back in 2006 when President Bush was in the White House, compared with today. 

On the whole, only 27 percent of Americans are even paying close attention to the revelations. That's roughly the same share of the country that in late May was tuned into the IRS targeting scandal and Congress's investigations into the Benghazi attack. Make of that what you will.

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