I have to admit, I was shocked by the Pew Research pol that shows a majority of Americans seem to be copacetic with the massive government invasions of their privacy with programs like the National Security Agency’s alleged PRISM data mining of internet communications and activities (and don’t forget those credit card purchases!) 56% think its acceptable to track your phone calls? 62% think the government say “investigate terrorism, even if it intrudes on privacy”?
The first problem is how the questions are worded. By implying in each inquiry that “terrorism” is the reason for the surveillance, Pew skews the results. It also suggests that Pew wanted a specific result for their poll — one that supported the administration’s actions. Why would they do this? Pew enlisted Princeton Data Source under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International — a polling service run by Larry Huglick — a former Gallap pollster, G Evans Witt — a reporter that’s worked with the Associated Press, NBC, and other pro-administration news services; and Mary McIntosh, a George Washington University professor and former government flack in the United States Information Agency’s Office of Research.
Princeton Data Source supposed pulls data from “respondents in the continental United States”, but I would be surprised if their phone calls wandered outside the are of the Northeastern seaboard. It would explain the heavy weighing of the survey:
Another answer might also be in their very telling results about the partisan nature of opposition to invasions of people’s privacy:
In other words — many the people polled are stupid enough to believe that surveillance is okay when its their team doing it; they certainly wouldn’t spy on their supporters, would they?
The “independent vote” — usually libertarians of various stripes and young contrarian voters — are even squishy on this one: Bush spy programs — bad, Obama spy programs — good. Part of the reason for the results is easy to suss out: young folks don’t pay attention to what’s going on around them:
But if you don’t like the Pew results, there’s always CBS News — not exactly a bastion of right-wing conservatism:
Take the “terrorism” angle out and those not wedded to the Democrat party aren’t too pleased with the government spying on them. CBS’ results closely match those of Gallup: 53% disapprove of the government’s actions.
The numbers jump if you word the question “Americans suspected of terrorist activity”…but who defines “terrorist activity?” Is it the gun-owners who agitate for their civil rights? Is it the small government Tea Party types? Is it folks that decry corruption in the government? The administration’s actions — from the IRS malfeasance in denying or stalling tax-exempt status, and auditing of, conservative and libertarian groups prior to the 2012 elections, to the widespread and untargeted data-mining of PRISM — seem to suggest their definition of “terrorist activity” is tied directly to political action that could be defined as contrary to the interests of the administration and the Democrat party.
The parisan divide and the shift in support also shows the short-sightedness of the voters’ opinions in the United States. The “It’s okay if it’s our guys doing it” mentality fails to take into account a very simple fact…sooner or later, your guys aren’t in charge, you have to hope that the next set are respectful of the rule of law and constitutional rights…because if they aren’t and they expand the powers of the police bureaucracies, those powers are rarely restrained or revoked. This is why allowing dramatic expansions of police power is always a mistake.
UPDATE: Added a FoxNews poll. I was surprised by the weighting on this one — it leans 39% Democrat, 36% Republican (although there’s a 4% “refused to answer” we can assume are independent or Republican-leaning, which would tilt it a percentage to the right.)