Do Americans support the Surveillance State?

Spoiler Alert: NO

Pew Research Center recently released the results of a survey on Americans attitude toward the Surveillance State and the results where quite interesting:

Overall, Americans hold nuanced views on the issue: A majority is against the government collecting bulk data on its citizens, and most believe there are not adequate limits on the types of data collected. But Americans do generally support monitoring the communications activity of suspected terrorists.

Of course, requiring the government to show they have probable cause to collect data would ensure that they are only targeting those who may actually pose a threat.

Here are some of the survey's findings:

1Americans' Views of NSA SurveillanceA majority of Americans (54%) disapprove of the U.S. government’s collection of telephone and internet data as part of anti-terrorism efforts, while 42% approve of the program. Democrats are divided on the program, while Republicans and independents are more likely to disapprove than approve, according to a survey we conducted last spring.

2More broadly, most Americans don’t see a need to sacrifice civil liberties to be safe from terrorism: In spring 2014, 74% said they should not give up privacy and freedom for the sake of safety, while just 22% said the opposite. This view had hardened since December 2004, when 60% said they should not have to give up more privacy and freedom to be safe from terrorism.

3National Security vs Civil LibertiesWhile they have concerns about government surveillance, Americans also say anti-terrorism policies have not gone far enough to adequately protect them. More (49%) say this is their bigger concern than say they are concerned that policies have gone too far in restricting the average person’s civil liberties (37%), according to a January survey. While Americans held this view between 2004 and 2010, they briefly held the opposite view in July 2013, shortly after the Snowden leaks.

Point number Three may seem like it is not supportive of those of us who oppose the Surveillance State, but remember that mass surveillance and bulk data collection does nothing to keep up us safe, in fact, by making it more difficult to identify real threats, these polices may place us in danger. So there is no contradiction between saying the government should do more to keep us safe without spying on us.

Read more about the Pew survey here.



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