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Voters Think U.S. Intelligence Agencies Play Politics

As the debate over Russian hacking efforts during the presidential campaign continues, voters here generally approve of the job U.S. intelligence agencies are doing but also suspect that they play politics.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 47% of Likely U.S. Voters believe America’s intelligence agencies have their own political agenda.  Thirty-nine percent (39%) disagree and think they generally perform impartially. Fifteen percent (15%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Fifty-three percent (53%) of Republicans and 50% of voters not affiliated with either major political party feel U.S. spy agencies have their own political agenda. Just 39% of Democrats agree.

The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russian government-ordered hackers found and leaked damaging internal Democratic Party e-mails to help Donald Trump’s candidacy but stop short of saying they did any vote-tampering. The Obama administration and senators in both parties have expressed concern, and a Senate hearing on the subject is planned. But Trump has been dismissive of the findings and continues to call for closer ties with Russia.

Fifty-eight percent (58%) of all voters rate the performance of U.S. intelligence agencies like the CIA and the NSA as good or excellent. Only 12% say they do a poor job.

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The national survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on January 5 and 8, 2017 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.

Among the 39% of voters who blame Hillary Clinton’s upset loss on outside factors, 21% say Russian interference was the most likely reason for her defeat.

Sixty-nine percent (69%) of Democrats give U.S. intelligence agencies positive marks, compared to 52% of Republicans and 49% of unaffiliated voters.

Among voters who believe these agencies generally perform impartially, 78% rate the job they do as good or excellent. Only 44% of voters who feel the intelligence agencies have their own political agenda agree; 22% of these voters think they do a poor job.

Conservatives are much more likely than moderates and liberals to think the spy agencies have a political agenda.

Fifty-two percent (52%) of voters who Strongly Approve of President Obama’s job performance think the agencies perform impartially most of the time. Sixty-three percent (63%) of those who Strongly Disapprove of the job Obama is doing believe they play politics instead.

Seventy-one percent (71%) of Democrats say it’s likely the Russians helped Trump win. Just as many Republicans (71%) consider it unlikely.

WikiLeaks made public the embarrassing internal Democratic Party e-mails during the campaign season, and the organization’s head Julian Assange insists that the Russians were not involved. Fifty-five percent (55%) of Republicans said in August that the media should publish the contents of the e-mails sent and received by public officials even if those e-mails are obtained illegally, but 68% of Democrats disagreed. 

The NSA was dragged into the spotlight in 2013 by Edward Snowden’s disclosure of their secret telephone and e-mail surveillance of millions of innocent Americans, but voters were generally supportive of the spy agency. Perhaps in part that’s because 62% believe protecting the country from a possible terrorist attack is more important than protecting the privacy of most Americans.

This also helps explain why voters were supportive of CIA interrogation techniques even after they were strongly criticized in a Senate report. Only 16% believe the CIA’s operations in general are too secretive.

U.S. relations with Russia have been tense over the past few years, and voters are concerned that we may be returning to a 1950s-like Cold War relationship with the former Soviet Union. Trump has said that he wants to lessen those tensions and Russia’s Vladimir Putin is a world leader that he can work with.

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

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The national survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on January 5 and 8, 2017 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.

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