American Support For Government Spying Plummets Amid Afghanistan Withdrawal: POLL

Ailan Evans on September 7, 2021

American support for government surveillance of both foreign and domestic targets dropped significantly over the past decade, according to a new poll.

Just 28% of Americans think the government should listen in on phone calls made outside the U.S. without a warrant, down from 49% in 2011, according to a poll released Tuesday conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Meanwhile, 27% favor warrantless surveillance of emails sent between people outside the U.S., a steep drop from 47% in 2011.

Support for domestic surveillance has also declined, albeit not as sharply, with only 14% favoring the government conducting warrantless surveillance of Americans’ private phone calls, compared to 23% in 2011. Whereas 30% of Americans favored the government reading emails without a warrant between people within the U.S. in 2011, by 2021 only 17% support the practice.

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Just 16% of Americans in 2021 think the government should be reading text messages, while 27% think the government should monitor internet searches, down from 48% in 2011, according to the poll.

The poll was conducted during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Roughly 60% of Americans think the war in Afghanistan was not worth fighting, and over half think the war in Iraq was not worth it, either.

The decline in support for government spying follows a number of unpopular government surveillance scandals, such as the Edward Snowden leaks that revealed the National Security Agency was conducting warrantless surveillance of Americans by scanning raw internet data with the help of telecommunications companies.

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The FBI conducted surveillance of three Trump campaign officials during the 2016 election, ostensibly to investigate whether the campaign colluded with the Russian government, in a scandal dubbed “Spygate.”

Respondents say they’re more worried about domestic extremism than foreign extremism, with 65% saying they were very or extremely concerned about extremist groups in the U.S., compared to just 50% who were concerned about foreign extremist groups.

Americans are also concerned with digital threats, with 75% saying they were very or extremely concerned about the spread of misinformation, and 67% saying they were very or extremely concerned about cyber attacks.

The poll surveyed 1,729 adults between Aug. 12-16 and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.2%.

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