Since June of last year, Americans have learned more and more about the secret practices employed by the NSA due to leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. During that time, countless polls have been conducted as a way to see how Americans feel about the NSA’s spy tactics. While a large number of Americans don’t like what the agency is doing, a majority haven’t felt that way until now.
The Pew Research Center and USA Today conducted a survey of 1,504 American adults and found that 53 percent disapprove of the NSA’s “collection of telephone and Internet data as part of anti-terrorism efforts” while only 40 percent of Americans approve of the agency’s programs. The new numbers are a major shift from the 50 percent that approved of the programs when they were first leaked back in June.
As for the current limits on what data the NSA can collect, 48 percent of Americans feel they are not adequate while 41 percent feel they are. When looking at political parties, 39 percent of Republicans, 38 percent of Independents and 48 percent of Democrats feel that the limits are adequate.
Perhaps the most depressing statistic from this latest poll is the number of people aware of President Obama’s speech on Friday in which he detailed his plans to reform the NSA. The poll found that 50 percent of Americans had not heard anything about the proposed reforms while 49 percent heard a little or a lot.
Those that did hear about the proposed changes aren’t all that confident they will lead to any significant reform though. Out of those who know about the proposed reforms, only 21 percent feel they will increase privacy protections while a whopping 73 percent feel they won’t make much of a difference.
When it comes to Edward Snowden, Americans are split pretty much right down the middle. The poll found that 45 percent of Americans believe Snowden served the public interest with the leaks while 43 percent believe he harmed the public interest. Interestingly enough, the number of people who believe he served the public interest increases with the amount of education the person has received. Those with some college under their belt support Snowden the most with 51 percent believing his actions served the public interest while 38 percent of those who have only graduated high school believe he served the public interest.
So, how has this all affected Obama’s job performance ratings? Surprisingly, there hasn’t been much of a change from last month with 49 percent of Americans disapproving of his performance while 43 percent approve. The last time there’s been a major change in approval rating was in November when 53 percent of Americans disapproved of Obama’s job performance while 41 percent approved.
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