New Poll Says American Public is Fine With NSA Surveillance

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Pew is out with the first poll asking the public what it thinks of the NSA phone record surveillance program. Unsurprisingly, the public thinks it’s just peachy, by a margin of 56-41. What is surprising, though, is the epic size of the change in partisan attitudes since 2006. Back then, Republicans approved of the (recently revealed) NSA program by 38 points more than Democrats. Now, Republicans disapprove by 12 points more than Democrats.

This isn’t the last word on the subject. The wording of the question is different this year compared to 2006, and that might account for a bit of the difference. But probably not much. Basically, when Bush was president, Republicans thought that monitoring telephone traffic was a great idea. Now, when Obama is president, they’re not so sure—but Democrats think it’s fine and dandy. This is about as remarkable a turnaround as I’ve seen on any subject in recent years.

Unfortunately, it’s going to be harder than I thought to eventually get a firm read on this. I had figured that early polls would be tentative because so few people would understand what the NSA program entails (i.e., legal vs. warrantless, every call vs. some calls, metadata vs. listening in). Later polls would get progressively more accurate as this stuff became better known. But now that the PRISM program has also been revealed, it’s likely that future polls will be forced to use mushy wording and public opinion will be a bit more confused. Oh well.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest