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Party Affiliation Taints Americans’ Views On Privacy, Civil Liberty

June 12, 2013 by  

A poll released Monday shows more than half of all Americans think it’s acceptable for the government to secretly track their phone calls, if doing so keeps them safe from terrorism.

The poll, done by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, also shows that nearly half believe it’s also acceptable for the National Security Administration (NSA) to indiscriminately spy on citizens’ online activities using secret dragnets like PRISM — so long as it stands a chance of preventing domestic terrorist attacks.

Most Back NSA
Interestingly, the poll also showed that opinions about the President’s role in orchestrating warrantless spying on American citizens vary among Democrats and Republicans to favor whichever party holds power in the executive branch.

Partisan Shifts

In other words, more Democrats think the NSA’s doing the Lord’s work right now, because a Democrat is in the White House. Back in 2006, when the President was a Republican, Democrats hated NSA surveillance. The reverse, of course, holds true for Republicans, more of whom are now outraged by the PRISM scandal than by any NSA revelations or expansion that occurred during the Presidency of George W. Bush.

Youth apathy over the government’s sophisticated surveillance of the very technologies that young people consume en masse is, perhaps, the poll’s most jarring find. While a greater number of young people (though still fewer than half) take a principled stand in support of privacy than do the other age groups surveyed, they aren’t that interested in following specific news about PRISM, the NSA’s secret data mining of Verizon customers or the draconian Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act.

“As with most news stories, interest is far higher among older Americans than the young: one-in-three (33%) Americans ages 50-and-older are following news about the government tracking phone records very closely,” the poll states. “Among those ages 18-29, just 12% are following very closely, while 56% say they are not following closely at all.”

Taken together, the poll means that more than half of Americans are fine with Verizon’s setting up of a secret, dedicated fiber-optic line — one that runs from New Jersey straight to a military base at Quantico, Va., and allows the government access “to all communications flowing through the carrier’s operations center,” according to The New York Times.

So long as their party’s in control of the White House, Republicans or Democrats mostly view the President as a trustworthy custodian of such extraConstitutional powers.

And if those Americans are under the age of 30, most of them just don’t care.

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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