AP-NORC Poll: Internet surveillance of Americans, without warrant, is OK with most people | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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AP-NORC Poll: Internet surveillance of Americans, without warrant, is OK with most people

FILE - In this Dec. 4, 2015 file photo, Aiden Abdelaziz, 2, attends prayers with his father, Mohamed Abdelaziz, 22, originally from Cairo, Egypt, at Dar al-Hijrah Mosque in Falls Church, Va. Americans are more likely to say protecting religious liberties of Christians is important than to say the same for Muslims, according to a new poll by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)
December 30, 2015 - 11:27 AM

WASHINGTON - A majority of Americans say they support warrantless government surveillance of the Internet communications of U.S. citizens, according to a new poll by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Most in the survey say that it's at least somewhat important for the government to sacrifice freedoms to ensure safety.

Here are some things to know about public opinion on civil liberties from the AP-NORC poll:

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MOST SUPPORT WARRANTLESS SURVEILLANCE

According to the new poll, 56 per cent of Americans favour and 28 per cent oppose the ability of the government to conduct surveillance on Internet communications without needing to get a warrant. That includes such surveillance on U.S. citizens.

Majorities both of Republicans (67 per cent) and Democrats (55 per cent) favour government surveillance of Americans' Internet activities to watch for suspicious activity that might be connected to terrorism. Independents are more divided, with 40 per cent in favour and 35 per cent opposed. Only a third of Americans under 30, but nearly two-thirds 30 and older, support warrantless surveillance.

The poll finds that for most Americans, safety concerns trump civil liberties at least some of the time.

More than half — 54 per cent — say it's sometimes necessary for the government to sacrifice freedoms to fight terrorism, while 45 per cent think that's not necessary. On a more general level, 42 per cent say it's more important for the government to ensure Americans' safety than to protect citizens' rights, while 27 per cent think rights are more important and 31 per cent rate both equally.

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TERRORISM CONCERNS RISING

Concerns about terrorism have risen since 2013. In the latest poll, nearly 6 in 10 Americans say they are at least somewhat concerned that they or their family might be victims of a terrorist attack, after just 3 in 10 said so two years ago.

Six in 10 Americans now think that the recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, indicate an increased risk of attacks against Western countries, while 37 per cent think the risk is about the same as it was before. Three-quarters of Republicans and majorities of both Democrats and independents think the attacks are an indication of increased risk.

Americans are similarly concerned about both domestic terrorism and possible attacks by Islamic extremist groups, with about 6 in 10 saying they're at least somewhat concerned about each.

Democrats and Republicans are about equally likely to say they're concerned about domestic terrorism, but Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to say they're concerned about attacks by Islamic extremists, 67 per cent to 47 per cent.

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MIXED OPINIONS ON PROTECTING RIGHTS

Americans have mixed views of how the government is doing at protecting their rights.

Seven in 10 say it does at least a somewhat good job protecting the right to vote, and nearly 6 in 10 say it's doing a good job of protecting freedom of speech and of the press. More than half say it's doing a good job of protecting religious liberties.

But just 4 in 10 Americans rate the government's performance as good on protecting the right to equal protection under the law, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, or the right to bear arms.

Democrats are significantly more likely than Republicans to say the government is doing a good job of protecting the right to freedom of religion, 64 per cent to 49 per cent.

On protecting the right to bear arms, 46 per cent of Democrats and just 33 per cent of Republicans think the government is doing a good job.

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DIVIDE ON RELIGIOUS LIBERTIES

Majorities of Americans think it's important to protect religious freedoms for a variety of religious groups, including Christians, Muslims and Jews.

But they're significantly more likely to say so of some groups than others. While 82 per cent of Americans in the poll say that it's extremely or very important that Christians be allowed to freely practice their religion in the United States, just 61 per cent say the same for Muslims. Seventy-two per cent say religious freedom is important for Jews, and 67 per cent say the same of Mormons. And 63 per cent say it's important to protect the freedoms of people with no religion.

Among Republicans, 88 per cent say it's important that Christians be able to worship freely and 60 per cent say so of Muslims. Among Democrats, too, there's a gap, with 83 per cent saying religious liberties are important for Christians and 67 per cent saying so for Muslims.

Eight in 10 Americans say it's very or extremely important for people like themselves to be allowed to practice their religion freely.

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The AP-NORC Poll of 1,042 adults was conducted online and by phone Dec. 10-13 using a sample drawn from NORC's probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods, and later interviewed online. People selected for AmeriSpeak who didn't otherwise have access to the Internet were interviewed over the phone.

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Online:

AP-NORC Center: http://www.apnorc.org/

News from © The Associated Press, 2015
The Associated Press

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