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  (Source: AP)
Majority approves of government tracking phone records (and by proxy location)

new study by the non-partisan Pew Research Center suggests that for all the attention paid by the media, social libertarians, and civil rights advocates regarding government spying, the majority of Americans are okay with their federal government spying on them to an extent.

The survey reports that 56 percent of Americans think its fine for the government to seize daily phone records of millions of Americans, most of whom have never committed a crime.  These records can be used to track a person's position over time. Only 41 percent of respondents opposed the seizures.

Further, nearly half of Americans (45 percent) want the government to monitor everyone's email to fight terrorism, while only a little more than half (52 percent) want to keep their email private.  This is nearly identical to 2002, when 45 percent of people supported email monitoring and 52 percent opposed it.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, partisan politics continue to be a route both of America's ruling parties use to convince people to embrace their bipartisan monitoring efforts.  In Jan. 2006, 61 percent of self-identified Democrats opposed monitoring, versus only 23 percent of Republicans.  At the time 75 percent of Republicans supported surveillance programs by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).

Gmail 
Nearly one out of every two Americans is fine with the government tracking them and reading their email.  [Image Source: CNN]

Today, nearly twice as many Republicans (47 percent) oppose monitoring, while only about half as many (34 percent) Democrats oppose it.  It appears that for many Americans they only oppose the government spying on them if it’s the political party they don't like.  Similar trends are observed on the topic of email monitoring.

Also perhaps predictable is the fact that support of a police state and 24-7 surveillance increases with age.  Among people age 18-29, 45 percent think the government should prioritize privacy over security, while for individuals age 65+ only 25 percent feel privacy is most important.

Also interesting is the fact that only a fourth of Americans are monitoring the NSA news story closely -- less Americans than the NSA is authorized to monitor, ironically.  While older people tend to have the least opposition to government monitoring, counter intuitively they're following the news about the NSA leaks the closest.

The survey of 1,004 individuals was conducted by Princeton Data Source.  The results were weighted based on the demographics of the individual and census statistics.

Source: Pew Research Center





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