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Americans divided on government surveillance

People walk at Grand Central Terminal, New York, NY. (Photo Illustration by Justin Maxon for MSNBC)
People walk at Grand Central Terminal, New York, NY.

Americans are divided over whether or not the U.S. government has gone too far in infringing on people’s privacy, according to the most recent NBC News online survey conducted by SurveyMonkey.

Thirty-eight percent of Americans say the U.S. government’s surveillance program has gone too far in infringing on people’s privacy, while 35% say the government’s program has been relatively balanced between privacy concerns and fighting terrorism. Another 1 in 4 Americans say the U.S. surveillance program has been too restrained in its efforts to combat terrorists.

RELATED: Obama signs ‘USA Freedom Act’ to reform NSA surveillance

Independents are slightly more likely to see the government as intrusive – 44% say that the government has gone too far, compared to 38% of Democrats and 28% of Republicans. Among those who support the Tea Party, 36% say the government has overstepped its bounds.

Last week, the Senate passed the USA Freedom Act, reforming the National Security Agency’s surveillance program after several weeks of debate and Republican infighting. President Obama signed the legislation.

The legislation ends the NSA’s authority to collect the phone records of Americans, and requires the government to obtain a warrant to collect phone metadata from telecommunications companies in the future.

Most Americans are not personally concerned about the U.S. government monitoring their own phone calls and internet activity – 6 in 10 say they are “a little” or “not at all” concerned. Still, a sizable 4 in 10 say they are “somewhat” or “very” concerned.

But when it comes to who collects and stores their data, Americans generally do not trust the private sector to safeguard their information any more than the government. A slim majority of Americans – 53% -- say they trust neither government agencies nor businesses like cellular telephone companies and internet providers to keep records of their phone calls or internet activity secure. Slightly more trust private business over government agencies – 21% to 11%, while another 14% trust both equally.

Republicans put somewhat more trust in business than do Democrats or independents, while independents have the lowest trust in government agencies and the most distrust in both businesses and government to keep their records private overall.

The NBC News Online Survey was conducted online by SurveyMonkey from June 3-5, 2015 among a national sample of 2,153 adults aged 18 and over. Respondents for this non-probability survey were selected from among those who have volunteered to participate in the SurveyMonkey Audience panel. Results have an error estimate of plus or minus 3.0 percentage points. A full description of our methodology can be found here. The survey was produced by the Analytics Unit of NBC News in conjunction with Penn's Program on Opinion Research and Election Studies with data collection and tabulation conducted by SurveyMonkey. Analysis by the University of Pennsylvania's Program on Opinion Research and Election Studies.