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72% Think NSA May Have Monitored Congress, Military Leaders, Judges

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Most voters think the National Security Agency is likely to have violated one of the country’s most cherished constitutional standards – the checks and balances between the three branches of government – by spying on the private communications of Congress and judges.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 72% of Likely U.S. Voters think it is at least somewhat likely that the NSA has monitored the private communications of Congress, military leaders and judges. That includes 45% who believe it is Very Likely. 

Just 14% say it’s not likely that the Executive branch of the government monitored the private communications of the Legislative and Judicial branches. Another 14% are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

This concern takes on even more significance given that 57% of voters believe it is likely the NSA data will be used by other government agencies to harass political opponents.

Most Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters all think the NSA is likely to have monitored those in the other branches of the government. Most unaffiliated voters (56%) and those in the GOP (50%) consider it Very Likely. Thirty-two percent (32%) of those in President Obama’s party (32%) share that view.

Not that voters have much confidence in any branch of the government now. Just 30% “trust the president, the Executive branch, Congress and federal judges to make sure the [surveillance] program is abiding by the Constitution.”  Despite the president’s assurance that "nobody is listening to your telephone calls," 68% believe it is likely that "government agencies are listening in on private conversations of American citizens.”

“None of the public players comes off looking great in the NSA story,” Scott Rasmussen says in his latest weekly newspaper column. “But there is now an opportunity for a healthy debate on the issue. It's not partisan. President Obama and former Vice President Dick Cheney are on the same side. The nation needs a serious discussion about what kind of oversight and protection is needed to honor the Constitution while still effectively fighting the terrorists who want to end our way of life.”

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The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on June 24-25, 2013 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Currently, 33% of voters approve of the recently disclosed NSA program of monitoring Americans’ private phone and e-mail communications to fight terrorism.  Fifty percent (50%) are opposed.

Fifty-five percent (55%) of Mainstream voters think it’s Very Likely the NSA monitored the private communications of Congress, military leaders and judges, but just 22% of the Political Class agree.

Fifty-two percent (52%) of voters who have served in the military believe the NSA is Very Likely to have monitored these communications, compared to 44% of those who have not been in uniform.

Men feel more strongly than women that the NSA is Very Likely to have monitored the private communications of Congress, military leaders and judges. 

Still, Americans have decidedly mixed feelings about the whistleblower who disclosed the NSA secret surveillance program: 12% view Edward Snowden as a hero, while 21% consider him a traitor.  The majority of Americans think he’s something in between the two or feel it’s too early to decide.

While 57% think it is at least somewhat likely that public disclosure of the NSA program has hurt this country’s national security, only 15% think a reporter who gets leaked information from a government whistleblower should be prosecuted for publishing the information.

The United States was founded on a belief that governments are created to protect certain unalienable rights. Today, however, more voters than ever (56%) view the federal government as a threat to individual rights rather than a protector of those rights.

Additional information from this survey and a full demographic breakdown are available to Platinum Members only.

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