The US National Security Agency's collection of phone records and online documents made numerous negative headlines in the past week, but a poll released by the Pew Research Center Tuesday found that a majority of Americans find the NSA's actions acceptable.
Around 56 percent of those who responded felt the surveillance was an acceptable way for the US government to investigate terrorism.
There's also an interesting political discrepancy to the Pew findings: Democrats were considerably more likely to accept the Obama administration's take on surveillance as compared to the Bush administration's version.
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While 64 percent of Democrats deemed the program "acceptable" in 2013, only 37 percent said the same back in 2006, meaning that the margin of acceptance has essentially reversed itself.
Young people tended to value their privacy over surveillance in the public interest, with 45 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 agreeing that it's "more important for the government NOT to intrude on personal privacy, even if that limits its ability to investigate possible terrorist threats."
That means 29-year-old leaker Edward Snowden is just inside the cusp of the generation least impressed with government-run surveillance programs.
Only 35 percent of 39- to 49-year-olds valued their privacy over public interest, while only 27 percent of those over the age of 50 agreed, meaning that the generational gap over the NSA's actions is considerable.
The wording of Pew's question to the public from 2006 to 2013 is rather different, as noted by Slate's David Weigel.
The 2013 question respondents their opinions on "secret court orders" allowing surveillance, while the 2006 question said the NSA had been investigating people's communications "without court approval."
The findings come only days after Pew released research concluding that 56 percent of American adults are smartphone users, indicating that the social media juggernaut the NSA accessed to record information is in little danger of abating.
Here's an image of the Pew findings, via their Twitter feed:
— Pew Research Center (@pewresearch) June 11, 2013
If you have been following US politics over the last 10-12 years, the Pew numbers on NSA shouldn't be surprising bit.ly/11v8P31
— Mark Murray (@mmurraypolitics) June 11, 2013