Tags: government | nsa | data | politics

Rasmussen: Majority Fear Government Will Use NSA Data to Harass Political Opponents

Image: Rasmussen: Majority Fear Government Will Use NSA Data to Harass Political Opponents

Friday, 14 Jun 2013 10:49 AM

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There is little public support for the sweeping and unaccountable nature of the National Security Agency surveillance program, along with concerns about how the data will be used.

Fifty-seven percent of voters nationwide believe it is likely the NSA data will be used by other government agencies to harass political opponents. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just 30 percent consider it unlikely and 14 percent are not sure.

Republicans and unaffiliated voters strongly voice this fear. Democrats are more evenly divided with a modest plurality considering such abuse unlikely.

Those overall figures include 33 percent who consider such official harassment as Very Likely and 8 percent who say it's Not At All Likely.

Currently, 33 percent approve of the NSA program to fight terrorism, while 50 percent are opposed. A plurality of Democrats support the plan, consistent with a typically higher level of trust in the government. Strong majorities of Republicans and unaffiliated voters are opposed.

Earlier results showed support for the program at just 26 percent. However, the increase in support is likely the result of question wording. In the earlier data, the program was described as being for "national security." The new question describes it as being used in the "fight against terrorism."

However, only 26 percent now believe it is necessary to collect data on millions of ordinary Americans to fight terrorism. Sixty-four percent believe it would be better to narrow the program so that it monitors only those with ties to terrorists or suspected terrorists.

Defenders of the NSA program say it's needed for national security. According to Politico, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, confirmed the agency sees no need to get judicial approval to search information about any individual American. Just 17 percent of voters nationwide are OK with that and think it is acceptable for a judge to authorize routine monitoring of data for millions of Americans. Seventy-three percent disagree and believe the government should be required to show a judge the need for monitoring the calls of specific Americans.

Most voters (82 percent) are following stories about the federal government's surveillance efforts closely, while just 16 percent are not following them. These figures include 44 percent who are following news reports Very Closely and 1 percent who are not following them at all.

Just 24 percent of voters currently trust the federal government to do the right thing most of the time. Forty-seven percent occasionally trust the feds, while 28 percent rarely or never offer such trust.

The survey of 1,000 likely voters was conducted on June 12-13, 2013, by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.

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