58% of Americans Disapprove of Federal Govt Agencies Collecting Phone Records of Ordinary Americans

In contrast to Washington Post/Pew poll findings, a new CBS/New York Times poll finds that a majority of Americans disapprove of federal government agencies collecting phone records of ordinary Americans. Additionally, 75 percent approve of government agencies collecting phone records of Americans suspected of terrorist activity.

Unlike the WashPost/Pew poll, CBS/NYTimes clearly disaggregates surveillance of Americans who are and are not suspected of any wrong-doing.

CBS/NYTimes In order to reduce the threat of terrorism, do you approve or disapprove of federal government agencies collecting phone records of ordinary Americans?

  • Approve: 38% 
  • Disapprove: 58%
  • Don't Know 3%

In order to reduce the threat of terrorism, do you approve or disapprove of federal government agencies collecting phone records of Americans that the government suspects of terrorist activity?

  • Approve: 75%
  • Disapprove: 20%
  • Don't Know: 5%

WashPost/Pew  As you may know, it has been reported that the National Security Agency has been getting secret court orders to track telephone call records of MILLIONS of Americans in an effort to investigate terrorism. Would you consider this access to telephone call records an acceptable or unacceptable way for the federal government to investigate terrorism?

  • Acceptable 56%
  • Unacceptable 41%
  • Don't Know 2%

It’s worth noting that Americans also distinguish between tracking phone calls and monitoring the content of email communications. The WashPost/Pew  poll did find a majority of Americans oppose government monitoring of emails.

Do you think the U.S. government should be able to monitor everyone’s email and other online activities if officials say this might prevent future terrorist attacks?

  • Yes, Should Monitor 45%
  • No, Should Not Monitor 52%
  • Don't Know 3%

In sum, these polls demonstrate that the details of government surveillance programs matter a great deal for whether Americans approve or disapprove.

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  • John||

    You mean Tony and Shreek are lying when they claim most people don't care about this? Sock puppets are given lies as talking points? Shocked, shocked I tell you.

  • sarcasmic||

    To be fair, approve and care are not synonymous.

    It's possible to disapprove of something, but not care enough to get all bent out of shape over it.

    Did you catch Stossel's column?

  • Tman||

    Yeah, the Stossel argument is what most people I've talked to have said.

    "Hey, Google already has all that shit. Who cares?"

    It's great to know 58% disapprove, but I seriously doubt it will make a difference on a political level. We have republicans like Graham licking the bootstraps like they were ice cream cones.

    This a very very steep uphill battle.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    The key caveat is the "of Ordinary Americans". The Lindsey Grahams of the world disapprove of spying on people like Lindsey Graham. It's anti-social freaks like us that need to be watched closely.

  • some guy||

    But what are those 58% going to do about it? Probably nothing.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    "Do you support the government's efforts to protect our children or do you support terrorists?"

  • Number 7||

    The fact that these numbers aren't 99.5% spells doom.

  • ||

    It may just be call records now, but when it eventually comes out that they're actually listening, we can at least do this.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    I would not be surprised if they've already been recording a very high number of calls, probably in encrypted form, and then requiring a FISA warrant to open them. I've seen hints here and there about this, dating from the time of the warrantless wiretapping controversy under Bush. It's perfectly logical and legal from their standpoint, you see. Because the information is immediately encrypted and cannot be opened without multiple keys, which can only be provided with a warrant, the expectation of privacy is intact. However, they can then go back and listen to calls that were made in the past once a suspect has been identified.

    Of course they would never directly use this information in a court because it would expose the program.

  • Gray Ghost||

    I would not be surprised if they've already been recording a very high number of calls, probably in encrypted form, and then requiring a FISA warrant to open them.

    Agreed. It's not unfeasible for them to have recorded every phone call made within the U.S. I don't know how the costs of long term data storage have progressed over the last 10 years, but when I last took a very back of the envelope estimate of how much it would cost, I came up with $150M USD/yr. This was to store digitized phone calls, at a guess of $50/TB, Skype's estimate of bandwidth per call, and the Census's figures on how often we spend on the phone each year. Point is, it's not that much money, as government goes.

    Now, having the data immediately accessible and searchable would cost much more, but the NSA's budget is really, really big. Like 10s of billions big.

    One caveat is that it probably---at least at first---wasn't the NSA intercepting US domestic communications; it was GCHQ in the U.K. And in return, the NSA would give GCHQ all of the take from their taps on the U.K. telecom structure. This probably wasn't true after 9/11. I mean, why let those direct taps into the network hubs go to waste?

  • CE||

    Polls don't matter. This is not a democracy.

  • Lord Humungus||

    this makes me feel slightly better... slightly.

  • MeMyselfandI||

    KCTV 5 in Kansas City did their own poll and 77% disapprove here. Wonder why there is such a big difference?

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