A majority of Americans believe govt spying on them is the least of their problems
Or at least I'm guessing that's what they think when they give answers like this to poll questions:
A large majority of Americans say the federal government should focus on investigating possible terrorist threats even if personal privacy is compromised, and most support the blanket tracking of telephone records in an effort to uncover terrorist activity, according to a new Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll.
Fully 45 percent of all Americans say the government should be able to go further than it is now asserting: that it should be able to monitor everyone's online activity if this would prevent future terrorist attacks. A slender majority, 52 percent, say no such broad-based monitoring should occur. Overall, 56 percent of all Americans see the NSA's accessing telephone call records of millions of Americans through secret court orders as "acceptable;" 41 percent call the practice 'unacceptable.'
On the other hand, consider this:
Only one-third of adult Americans can correctly identify the Bill of Rights and fewer than 1 in 10 know it was adopted to protect them against abuses by the Federal Government, a poll made public today says.
Ok, that's old. It's from 20 years ago. Here's a more recent finding. We must have improved our knowledge since 1991, right?
The poll last summer of 507 people, commissioned by the American Bar Association, coincided with the 200th anniversary of the Dec. 15, 1791, ratification of the Bill of Rights.
Ratified four years after the Constitution was adopted, the Bill of Rights fulfilled a political promise made to assure states' acceptance of the Constitution. Many distrusted the fledgling nation's centralized Government, and wanted the Constitution to include a declaration of rights and governmental limits.
The bar association's survey offered multiple choices. Thirty-three percent correctly identified the Bill of Rights as the Constitution's first 10 amendments; 28 percent said it was a preamble to the Constitution; 22 percent said it is any rights bill passed by Congress; 7 percent chose "a message of rebellion from the Founding Fathers to the British monarchy." Ten percent said they did not know.
42 percent of American adults incorrectly chose one of America’s Founding documents as the source of Karl Marx’s exposition of Communism, "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs." Of these incorrect answers, the most commonly chosen was the Bill of Rights.
You've got to love that Marx dictum being in the Bill of Rights. Maybe we should sneak it in there since nobody knows what's in it anyway ...
Other noteworthy findings from the poll include the following:
60 percent of American adults did not correctly identify the principle that our
government’s powers are derived from the people as an attribute that makes America
55 percent of American adults did not recognize that “education” is not a First
Nearly 1 in 10 American adults do not realize that the right to petition our government
is a freedom guaranteed in the First Amendment.
Only 20 percent of American adults correctly selected the Tenth Amendment as the
Amendment that reserves powers to the states and the people.
I don't bring this up to prove that Americans' opinion about NSA surveillance is invalid. It isn't. They want to be safe from terrorism and they don't feel they've been personally affected by this surveillance so it makes sense. But I do think it's fair to assume that they may not understand the principles under which some of us are objecting to this.
Most people short-hand politics as a team sport, which you can see in these numbers from today's poll:
According to a new survey from the Pew Research Center, a majority of Americans are O.K. with the National Security Agency’s surveillance program—i.e. secret tracking of phone records. Fifty-six percent think it’s “acceptable” while 41 percent think it’s “not acceptable.” That’s a slight change from seven years ago, when 51 percent said it was acceptable and 47 percent said it was not.
People trust their guy and not the other guy. I disagree with this but I understand it. People are busy.
Those general numbers mask a large partisan shift. In 2006, when George W. Bush was president, just 37 percent of Democrats said the N.S.A. surveillance program was acceptable, while 61 percent said it was not. Now those numbers are 64 percent and 34 percent respectively.
Republicans appear to be fair-weather fans as well. In 2006, 75 percent said the program was acceptable, and 23 percent said it was not. Now 52 percent find it acceptable, and 47 percent unacceptable.
I think the one thing we might want to ensure people know is that these government agencies exist outside "our guy" and "their guy." Presidents come and go but the NSA is forever.