Public support for the National Security Agency’s activities has eroded over the last seven months, since information about the secretive agency’s activities was first revealed through leaks facilitated by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
That’s according to the most recent survey by Pew, which suggests that defenses of the program by top national security officials and even the president have failed to move the dial in the NSA’s direction. About seven months since publication of Snowden’s leaks began, public support for the NSA and its metadata program–which collects the time, duration, and numbers party to a phone call–has declined across the board. A plurality of Democrats and a majority of Republicans now disapprove of the NSA’s efforts. In June 2013, 58% of Democrats approved, now only 46% do. Forty-five percent of Republicans approved of the metadata program in June 2013, now only 37% do.
Overall, a majority of Americans, 53%, disapprove of the “government’s collection of telephone and Internet data as part of anti-terrorism efforts,” according to Pew, while only 40% disapprove. In June, an electron-thin plurality–48% to 47%–expressed approval.
Congress is currently divided over whether and to what degree to alter the legal authorities underlying the NSA’s activities. Democratic California Sen. Dianne Feinstein has proposed a bill that would explictly authorize the NSA powers at the center of the controversy, while a proposal by Republican Wisconsin Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner and Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy would restrain them.
Americans are divided over Snowden–45% say his disclosures have been in the public interest, while 43% say the public interest has been harmed. A majority however, 56%, say Snowden should be prosecuted, only 32% say he shouldn’t be.
Obama’s speech last Friday hasn’t done much to shore up support for the NSA’s activities. In fact the Pew survey suggests that they believe his proposals won’t do much to protect Americans’ privacy. Seventy-three percent say his changes will do nothing help protect Americans’ privacy.