Despite the conniption fit over the National Security Agency’s Internet snooping, most Americans are perfectly okay with Big Brother spying on them. “A majority of Americans – 56 percent – say the National Security Agency’s (NSA) program tracking the telephone records of millions of Americans is an acceptable way for the government to investigate terrorism,” explains a new Pew Report.
An overwhelming majority of Americans also feel, generally, that it’s more important to “Investigating Terrorist threats” than “Not intrude on privacy.” (62 percent vs. 34 percent). Indeed, the Hawkish margin has been steady for 6 years.
If I were President Obama, I’d start wearing a Pew t-shirt to all my press conferences, because anyway you slice this data, it’s an inescapable endorsement for his controversial policies (for the record: I’m not a fan of the NSA’s secrecy).
Americans, however, get a bit more constitutionally queasy when it comes to email snooping: a slight majority (47 percent vs. 52 percent) do not believe the government should be able to monitor everyone’s email.
While especially young citizens are more snooping-averse, the majority of all age groups support monitoring everyone’s online activity if authorities think it will prevent a terrorist attack.
As expected, people who follow the news “very closely” are more concerned about civil liberties than national security (31 percent vs. 21 percent).
Interestingly enough, there’s a been a noticeable partisan shift between the Obama and Bush administrations. In 2006, 53 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of Democrats supported email monitoring, yet seven years later, it’s the complete reverse (45 percent of Republicans and 53 percent of Democrats support email monitoring).
I conclude this post knowing that I might be hammered by my colleagues: The press isn’t always representative of the people. Our job is to be critical. As we criticize President Obama for his civil liberties record, we should be mindful that he may be following his mandate as an elected official to represent the people. Again, I’m not a fan of the NSA secrecy. However, any intellectually honest writer has to admit that public opinion complicates widespread criticism of President Obama’s national security strategy.