In the wake of reports that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been listening to phone calls of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other heads of state, a 56% majority of Americans say it is unacceptable for the U.S. to monitor the phones of allied leaders, while 36% say the practice is acceptable.
There are virtually no partisan differences in these opinions. Roughly equal shares of partisans — 57% of Republicans, 53% of Democrats and 56% of independents — say that the practice is unacceptable.
News reports indicate that President Obama was unaware of the program to tap Merkel’s phone and that he might ban future eavesdropping of allied leaders.
The new national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Oct. 31-Nov. 3 among 1,002 adults, finds that 22% say they very closely followed reports about the U.S. government’s phone and internet surveillance programs. That is similar to the share that paid very close attention to stories about government surveillance in September and over the summer. Attention was highest in mid-June, when 35% said they were following reports about the initial disclosures by Edward Snowden.
The public followed reports about the government’s surveillance programs less closely than news about the new health insurance exchanges (32%) and the U.S. economy (31%). By comparison, 16% followed baseball’s World Series very closely.
As in recent weeks, adults younger than 30 are following news about health care implementation less than are older adults. Just 15% of those younger than 30 say they followed news about health care exchanges very closely, compared with 30% of those 30-49 and 41% of adults 50 and older.
By contrast, 17% of young adults very closely followed news about the government’s surveillance programs, which is not statistically different from other age groups.