Poll: Opinions on government spying programs are changing

Updated
The US flag flutters in front of the US consulate in Hong Kong on June 10, 2013.
The US flag flutters in front of the US consulate in Hong Kong on June 10, 2013.
Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

Americans’ opinions of NSA leaker Edwards Snowden and his release of classified documents detailing NSA surveillance programs are changing slightly as the initial shock of the revelation dies down. According to a new USA Today/ Pew Research Center Poll 54% of those polled say Snowden should be criminally prosecuted compared to the 38% who disagree.

The same poll shows an almost even split on the public’s approval of NSA spying and PRISM as part of the fight against terrorism, 48% approve of surveillance and 47% disapprove. The poll further shows that 56% believe the NSA tracking phone calls of millions of Americans to investigate terrorism is acceptable, compared to the 41% who find it unacceptable. More than half of those polled, 53%, believe these programs have helped stop terror attacks.

But Americans also appear to have mixed feelings about Snowden leaking the information to the press. A TIME poll conducted immediately after the revelations showed 54% of Americans believed Snowden made the right decision by unveiling the classified surveillance programs. Even though the public appeared to back the leaks, 51% of those polled said the administration is right to continue the programs, which begun during President George W. Bush’s administration—48% said the NSA was in the wrong.

“What I think you’re seeing in a lot of the surveys is that the public isn’t particularly happy about this program, particularly in the realm of civil liberties and privacy,” Michael Dimmock, director of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press told USA Today. “But a lot of people are willing to give the government a certain amount of leeway in fighting against terrorism.”

Poll: Opinions on government spying programs are changing

Updated