Are voters OK with government surveillance?

In the abstract, apparently yes. But specifically, it's clearly a matter of "don't mess with me":

To hear the outrage, you'd think the public was in revolt that the government is reading their email and monitoring their phone calls.

In reality, the collective reaction was probably something closer to this: Meh.

And it's probably why President Barack Obama won't change the program and Republicans won't make too much of a fuss.

Privacy is sort of like the deficit: In the abstract, voters rate it a serious concern. But drill down, and they don't want to cut the entitlements that balloon federal spending -- or end programs that have prevented terrorist attacks.

Especially if Americans don't believe their own computers and phones are being monitored, they are willing to give the government a long leash, public opinion experts say.

(PHOTOS: Pols, pundits weigh in on NSA report)

"The outrage is coming from the people who write, but not the people who vote," said Democratic pollster Jefrey Pollock, president of Global Strategy Group, adding that the type of surveillance revealed this week is seen as "a necessary evil."

"People are willing to kind of bite the bullet a little bit if it helps stop terrorist attacks," said Republican pollster Ed Goeas of the Tarrance Group.

A Pew Research survey in 2011 found that only 29 percent favored "the U.S. government monitoring personal telephone calls and emails" in order to curb terrorism. But Pew found in another poll that 47 percent are more concerned government policies "have not gone far enough to adequately protect the country," while only 32 percent said they were more concerned the government has gone "too far."

"I wouldn't want to minimize the concern over privacy at all because it's definitely there. But at the same time, especially in the wake of Boston and the constant threat people are feeling ... protection is foremost," said Carroll Doherty, associate director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. "In this general tradeoff, when push comes to shove ... more people consistently since 9/11 said protecting the country is a greater concern than restricting civil liberties."

Just as long as the American people are convinced their private emails and other communications aren't being read by the feds, they seem content to leave it in the hands of government to protect them.

Needless to say, this isn't a healthy attitude to possess when it comes to preserving liberty, but terrorism consistently frightens people enough that they're willing to go against Ben Franklin's advice and "trade a little liberty for security." Franklin warned that if we did that, we'd eventually have neither.


In the abstract, apparently yes. But specifically, it's clearly a matter of "don't mess with me":

To hear the outrage, you'd think the public was in revolt that the government is reading their email and monitoring their phone calls.

In reality, the collective reaction was probably something closer to this: Meh.

And it's probably why President Barack Obama won't change the program and Republicans won't make too much of a fuss.

Privacy is sort of like the deficit: In the abstract, voters rate it a serious concern. But drill down, and they don't want to cut the entitlements that balloon federal spending -- or end programs that have prevented terrorist attacks.

Especially if Americans don't believe their own computers and phones are being monitored, they are willing to give the government a long leash, public opinion experts say.

(PHOTOS: Pols, pundits weigh in on NSA report)

"The outrage is coming from the people who write, but not the people who vote," said Democratic pollster Jefrey Pollock, president of Global Strategy Group, adding that the type of surveillance revealed this week is seen as "a necessary evil."

"People are willing to kind of bite the bullet a little bit if it helps stop terrorist attacks," said Republican pollster Ed Goeas of the Tarrance Group.

A Pew Research survey in 2011 found that only 29 percent favored "the U.S. government monitoring personal telephone calls and emails" in order to curb terrorism. But Pew found in another poll that 47 percent are more concerned government policies "have not gone far enough to adequately protect the country," while only 32 percent said they were more concerned the government has gone "too far."

"I wouldn't want to minimize the concern over privacy at all because it's definitely there. But at the same time, especially in the wake of Boston and the constant threat people are feeling ... protection is foremost," said Carroll Doherty, associate director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. "In this general tradeoff, when push comes to shove ... more people consistently since 9/11 said protecting the country is a greater concern than restricting civil liberties."

Just as long as the American people are convinced their private emails and other communications aren't being read by the feds, they seem content to leave it in the hands of government to protect them.

Needless to say, this isn't a healthy attitude to possess when it comes to preserving liberty, but terrorism consistently frightens people enough that they're willing to go against Ben Franklin's advice and "trade a little liberty for security." Franklin warned that if we did that, we'd eventually have neither.


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