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Americans are conflicted about the federal government’s counter-terrorism PRISM program, which collects data on people’s telephone records, internet traffic and emails.
According to a new Time Magazine poll, Americans are divided on the surveillance program, with 48% approving and 44% expressing disapproval. The telephone poll was conducted by Abt SRBI on June 10-11 with a representative sample of 805 Americans.
PRISM Program Seen as Somewhat Effective
Americans largely agree that the surveillance program has been effective.
Fear of “Big Brother” Snooping
One reason for the ambivalence is that many fear that the government will abuse the surveillance data. Nearly two-thirds (63%) are” very” or “somewhat concerned” that the government will use the information to snoop into people’s private lives; with one-third (32%) saying they are ‘very concerned’.
Democrats More Supportive
Support is strongest among:
A clear majority (57%) of Republicans disapprove of the surveillance program.
Though Americans are divided on whether or not they approve of the program, nearly two-thirds (64%) are following developments closely.
Fear Program is More Widespread; Plurality Favor Cutting Back
Adding to the public’s skepticism is a widespread concern (76%) that the program is bigger and more widespread than is currently being reported. Congressional or judicial oversight of the program produces little additional support (20%) for the program
A plurality (43%) agree that the government should be cutting back on programs that threaten privacy, while just one in five (20%) believe the government should be doing more to prevent terrorism.
Leaks Should be Prosecuted, but Whistleblower Seen as Doing Good
There is bipartisan support for prosecution of government officials who leak classified material:
However, young people are less likely to agree…
While American’s may feel that the leaking of classified information should be prosecuted, most (54%) think that Edward Snowden did a good thing when he leaked information about the government’s surveillance program.
Abt SRBI Public Affairs designed the survey and conducted all interviewing. The full Time Poll questionnaire and trend data may be found at: www.abtsrbi.com.
This Time Magazine poll was conducted by telephone June 10 – 11, 2013 among a national random sample of 805 Americans, ages 18 and older, throughout America. The poll included users of both conventional and cellular phones. Poll data were weighted to account for phone service.
The margin of error for the entire sample is approximately +/- 4 percentage points. The margin of error is higher for subgroups. Surveys are subject to other error sources as well, including sampling coverage error, recording error, and respondent error.
Time Magazine Surveillance Poll Questionnaire and Data
Abt Associates is a mission-driven, global leader in research, evaluation and program implementation in the fields of health, social and environmental policy, and international development. Known for its rigorous approach to solving complex challenges, Abt Associates is regularly ranked as one of the top 20 global research firms and one of the top 40 international development innovators. The company has multiple offices in the U.S. and program offices in more than 40 countries.