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50% Think Feds Likely to Have Looked at Internet Activity of Someone in Their Family

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Americans recognize there is no way to guarantee the privacy of their Internet searches, and one-out-of-two now think it's likely the government has trolled their Internet activity or that of someone in their family.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 60% of Americans who use the Internet at least occasionally consider their Internet communications at least somewhat private now, with 21% who feel they are Very Private. Twenty-eight percent (28%) think their Internet activity is not private, with eight percent (8%) who say it is Not At All Private. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Overall confidence in Internet privacy is down from 68% in late May just before the National Security Agency's domestic spying on telephone calls and e-mails was disclosed. But that quickly fell to 49% in early June after the story broke, with just 12% who felt their Internet communications were Very Private.

But 75% of all Americans believe it is no longer possible to guarantee that an individual's Internet searches will remain private. Just seven percent (7%) think such a guarantee is possible, while 18% are not sure.

Fifty percent (50%) now think it is at least somewhat likely that the government has monitored their Internet activity or the activity of a member of their family. Thirty-five percent (35%) consider that unlikely. This includes 27% who believe government monitoring is Very Likely and nine percent (9%) who say it's Not At All Likely. Sixteen percent (16%) are not sure.

Daily users of the Internet are even more convinced that the privacy of their searches can no longer be guaranteed and that government monitoring of their Internet activity is likely.

President Obama announced in early August that there would be tighter controls on the NSA's tracking of telephone calls and e-mails by millions of ordinary Americans, but 49% of likely U.S. voters expect the level of domestic surveillance to remain about the same.

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The survey of 1,000 Adults was conducted on November 2-3, 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.

Seventy-one percent (71%) of voters say it is at least somewhat likely that the NSA phone and surveillance programs have inappropriately violated the privacy of innocent Americans, with 41% who think it’s Very Likely. Fifty-three percent (53%) still don't trust the president, the executive branch, Congress and federal judges to make sure the NSA abides by the Constitution.

Seventy-nine percent (79%) of Americans say they have been following recent news reports about the NSA's surveillance programs at least somewhat closely, with 38% who have been following Very Closely.

Just 14% now say they rarely or never use the Internet. Sixty-six percent (66%) say they go online every day or nearly every day.

Women assume their Internet communications are Very Private more than men do. Those over 40 are more likely than younger adults to think these communications are Very Private.

Americans under 65 also believe more strongly that it is no longer possible to guarantee that an individual's Internet searches remain private.

Those not affiliated with either major political party feel much more strongly than either Democrats or Republicans that the government is likely to have monitored their own Internet activity or that of a family member.

Thirty-nine percent (39%) of all voters regard the NSA’s surveillance of Americans’ phone and e-mail communications as a serious scandal. Thirty-two percent (32%) now think it’s an embarrassing situation but not a scandal. Twenty-one percent (21%) say it’s no big deal. 

Still, 58% believe it is at least somewhat likely that continuing disclosure of the NSA phone and email surveillance programs is hurting U.S. national security.

Sixty-four percent (64%) of voters now have an unfavorable opinion of the federal government.

Fifty-six percent (56%) consider the federal government 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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