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How do Americans feel about NSA surveillance? Ambivalent

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Connecting the dots is exactly what the National Security Agency says it’s trying to do with the now-revealed programs vacuuming up billions of bits of “meta-data” on telephone calls and Internet use.

How do Americans feel about this?

With the latest revelations just days – in some cases, hours – old, it’s too soon to know for sure.

But since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the public has been generally supportive of national security efforts – sometimes finding those more important than any concern about privacy and other things dear to civil liberties advocates.

“Voters give government leeway to snoop” reads the headline on James Hohmann’s piece on

“Privacy is sort of like the deficit: In the abstract, voters rate it a serious concern,” Mr. Hohmann writes. “But drill down, and they don’t want to cut the entitlements that balloon federal spending – or end programs that have prevented terrorist attacks. Especially if Americans don’t believe their own computers and phones are being monitored, they are willing to give the government a long leash.”

 A Pew Research survey in 2011 found that only 29 percent favored “the U.S. government monitoring personal telephone calls and emails” in order to curb terrorism. But Pew found in another poll that 47 percent are more concerned government policies “have not gone far enough to adequately protect the country,” while only 32 percent said they were more concerned the government has gone “too far.”

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