American feelings on digital privacy pivot with the Oval Office

April 17, 2017, 3:52 PM GMT+0

Compared to the Obama era, 50% fewer Republicans now think the government goes too far with data surveillance

Earlier this month, Trump repealed a Federal Communications Commission rule requiring internet service providers to obtain permission before selling consumer browsing history and other data. This move, coupled with recent reports of CIA malware attacking personal computers and smartphones, has tensions running high over data privacy.

While governments have long cited the threat of terrorism to justify the surveillance of private citizens’ phone and data usage, a new poll from YouGov suggests that public opinion on the issue has shifted significantly with the recent transition of power in the White House.

For instance, in 2017 the number of Republicans who say the government goes too far in collecting Americans’ phone and internet data has dropped by half — from 66% to 33% — compared to 2014. While 50% of Democrats also say the government currently goes too far, this number has increased by only two points since Obama’s presidency.

In regard to whether collecting and analyzing Americans’ phone and internet data is justified as a way to combat terrorism, Democrat support has dropped by nearly half since 2014, from 30% to 16%. By contrast, 42% of Republicans now say government surveillance is justified — an increase of 17 points compared to three years ago.

So while many Americans of all backgrounds feel that their privacy is being infringed upon, a significant portion of both Democrats and Republicans seem more comfortable with government data surveillance while their own president is in office.

Full 2017 survey results available here

Full 2014 survey results available here