Update: Polls Continue to Show Majority of Americans Against NSA Spying
Update, January 2014: Polls continue to confirm the trend. In a poll conducted in December 2013 by the Washington Post, 66% of Americans were concerned "about the collection and use of [their] personal information by the National Security Agency." Americans aren't only concerned about the collection. A recent Pew poll found—yet again—that a majority of Americans oppose the government's collection of phone and Internet data as a part of anti-terrorism efforts.
Since Americans are both concerned with, and opposed to, the spying, it's no surprise that they also want reform. In a November 2013 poll by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research,1 59% of respondents noted that they wanted surveillance reform and 63% said they wanted more oversight of the spying programs. While these polls focused on the larger population of Americans, a Harvard University Insitute of Politics poll focusing on younger Americans (aged 18-29 years old) reaffirmed younger Americans are both wary of the NSA's activities and that a majority do not want the government to collect personal information about them.
Shortly after the June leaks, numerous polls asked the American people if they approved or disapproved of the NSA spying, which includes collecting telephone records using Section 215 of the Patriot Act and collecting phone calls and emails using Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The answer then was a resounding no, and new polls released in August and September clearly show Americans' increasing concern about privacy has continued.
Since July, many of the polls not only confirm the American people think the NSA's actions violates their privacy, but think the surveillance should be stopped. For instance in an AP poll, nearly 60 percent of Americans said they oppose the NSA collecting data about their telephone and Internet usage. In another national poll by the Washington Post and ABC News, 74 percent of respondents said the NSA's spying intrudes on their privacy rights. This majority should come as no surprise, as we've seen a sea change in opinion polls on privacy since the Edward Snowden revelations started in June.
What's also important is that it crosses political party lines. The Washington Post/ABC News poll found 70 percent of Democrats and 77 percent of Republicans believe the NSA’s spying programs intrude on their privacy rights. This change is significant, showing that privacy is a bipartisan issue. In 2006, a similar question found only 50 percent of Republicans thought the government intruded on their privacy rights.
Americans also continue their skepticism of the federal government and its inability to conduct proper oversight. In a recent poll, Rasmusson—though sometimes known for push polling—revealed that there's been a 30 percent increase in people who believe it is now more likely that the government will monitor their phone calls. Maybe even more significant is that this skepticism carries over into whether or not Americans believe the government's claim that it "robustly oversees" the NSA's programs. In a Huffpost/You Gov poll, 53 percent of respondents said they think "the federal courts and rules put in place by Congress" do not provide "adequate oversight." Only 18 percent of people agreed with the statement.
Americans seem to be waking up from its surveillance state slumber as the leaks around the illegal and unconstitutional NSA spying continue. The anger Americans—especially younger Americans—have around the NSA spying is starting to show. President Obama has seen a 14-point swing in his approval and disapproval rating among voters aged 18-29 after the NSA spying.
These recent round of polls confirm that Americans are not only concerned with the fact that the spying infringes their privacy, but also that they want the spying to stop. And this is even more so for younger Americans. Now is the time for Congress to act: join the StopWatching.Us coalition.