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.