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Americans deeply split over government spying programs: poll

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A new poll finds Americans have divergent opinions on whether it is all right for the government to track telephone records in the name of fighting terrorism.

A majority of respondents, 56 percent, said the National Security Agency’s recently disclosed database of call logs is acceptable, yet a “substantial minority” of 41 percent say it’s unacceptable, according to a national survey conducted June 6-9 by the Pew Research Center and The Washington Post among 1,000 adults.


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The poll, Pew says, “finds no indications that last week’s revelations of the government’s collection of phone records and internet data have altered fundamental public views about the tradeoff between investigating possible terrorism and protecting personal privacy.”

Among the findings, 62 percent of Americans said it’s more important for the government to investigate potential terrorist threats, despite the intrusion on personal privacy, while 34 percent would put privacy over the ability to investigate possible threats.

Older respondents tended to place a heavier emphasis on investigating terrorism over privacy, at about 60 percent, than younger people, at 51 percent.

The poll also found that Republicans and Democrats tended to alter their positions on the surveillance programs depending on who was in charge, former President George W. Bush or President Obama.

In January 2006, 75 percent of Republicans said the NSA’s program was acceptable to obtain court orders to track phone call records, while only 52 percent hold that view today.

Democrats, by 64 percent to 34 percent, find the current program to be acceptable, but in January 2006 they said it was unacceptable by a similar margin — 61 percent to 36 percent.

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