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Support for government snooping and the Obama factor

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks in Washington, D.C. on May 23, 2013.
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks in Washington, D.C. on May 23, 2013.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

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A new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center and the Washington Post has found that Americans’ attitudes toward government surveillance has largely stayed the same in the last decade, with 56% of those surveyed finding the National Security Agency’s tracking of phone records an acceptable means to thwart potential terrorist attacks. Support was just slightly lower in January 2006, when 51% of respondents backed the Bush administration’s surveillance program weeks after it came to light.

The data is more telling once you take political affiliation into account. Today, only 52% of Republicans say it’s ok for the NSA to track phone calls of Americans, versus 75% in January 2006. The same trend goes for Democrats: 64% now supports the program, compared to just 36% in 2006. While civil libertarians, privacy advocates, and supporters of limited government are outraged by the Obama administration’s domestic surveillance program, the response from the American public has been somewhat muted.

Is your attitude on the privacy swayed by who is in the White House?

Carroll Doherty, Associate Director of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

Julian Zelizer, Professor of History and Public Affairs at Princeton University and editor of “The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment”