A strong majority of Democrats now say that National Security Agency surveillance programs are acceptable, nearly the same percentage who said they were unacceptable when the question was asked during the President George W. Bush administration, according to a report by Pew Research Center. The reverse shift was seen among Republicans.
In January 2006, the last time there was a controversy over NSA surveillance, 61 percent of Democrats said that the programs were "unacceptable." This month, after a similar NSA program in which phone records were collected was revealed, Pew Research conducted a poll asking if the NSA surveillance programs were acceptable or unacceptable. This time, 64 percent of Democrats said the programs were "acceptable."
Similarly, Republicans were more accepting of the programs while Bush was president and less accepting while Obama was president. In both polls, though, a majority of Republicans answered that the programs were acceptable. In 2006, 75 percent of Republicans said the NSA program was "acceptable." This month, 52 percent of Republicans said the program was "acceptable."
Among those who answered "acceptable," Democrats shifted 27 percentage points and Republicans shifted 23 percentage points.
For the full sample in this month's poll, a majority, 56 percent, said the NSA program collecting phone records is acceptable. Fewer, though, 45 percent, answered that the government should be able to monitor everyone's email to prevent terrorism.
The question wording was slightly different in each poll.
This month's poll asked: "As you may know, it has been reported that the National Security Agency has been getting secret court orders to track telephone call records of MILLIONS of Americans in an effort to investigate terrorism. Would you consider this access to telephone call records an acceptable or unacceptable way for the federal government to investigate terrorism?"
The January 2006 poll asked: "On another subject: as you may know, the National Security Agency has been investigating people suspected of involvement with terrorism by secretly listening in on telephone calls and reading e-mails between some people in the United States and other countries, without first getting court approval to do so. Would you consider this wiretapping of telephone calls and e-mails without court approval as an acceptable or unacceptable way for the federal government to investigate terrorism?"
The June 6-9, 2013, poll surveyed 1,004 adults. The margin of errors are 3.7 percentage points for the full sample, 7.9 percentage points for Republicans, and 6.4 percentage points for Democrats.