Security Magazine

Poll says Public Mostly Not Interested in NSA Surveillance Debate

January 21, 2014

A Pew Research Center poll says that most of the American public is tuning out the policy debate over government surveillance.

The poll shows that half the public said they had heard nothing at all about President Obama’s speech last week that outlined new restrictions on the National Security Agency. Only eight percent of those surveyed said they had "heard a lot" about Obama’s plans.

Of those who said they had heard at least a little bit about the speech, the overwhelming majority said they thought the president’s plans would have little impact either on protecting privacy or on hindering the government’s fight against potential terrorist plots. About 1 in 5 said Obama’s plans would increase the protection of individual privacy and about 1 in 8 said it would make fighting terrorism more difficult.

Last July, a Pew poll showed the public approving of the programs by a narrow margin. By 48% to 41%, the public said that current limits on what the government collects are not adequate.

With regards to Edward Snowden, the poll showed that the public is almost equally divided on the question of whether he has served or harmed the public interest, with Americans younger than 30 significantly more inclined to see his actions positively while those over 65 see them negatively.

By 56 percent to 32 percent, Americans said they thought the government should pursue a criminal case against Snowden. Those under 30 divided evenly on the question, while all other age groups supported prosecution by large margins.