In Depth: Topics A to Z

Civil Liberties

Trend: Next, we’d like to know how you feel about the state of the nation in each of the following areas. For each one, please say whether you are -- very satisfied, somewhat satisfied, somewhat dissatisfied, or very dissatisfied. If you don’t have enough information about a particular subject to rate it, just say so. How about government surveillance of U.S. citizens?

Trend: Which comes closer to your view -- [ROTATED: the government should take all steps necessary to prevent additional acts of terrorism in the U.S. even if it means your basic civil liberties would be violated, (or) the government should take steps to prevent additional acts of terrorism but not if those steps would violate your basic civil liberties?

From what you know or have read about them, do you think the government's programs designed to prevent additional acts of terrorism violate your civil liberties, or not?

As you may know, as part of its efforts to investigate terrorism, a federal government agency obtained records from larger U.S. telephone and Internet companies in order to compile telephone call logs and Internet communications. How closely have you been following the news about this -- very closely, somewhat closely, not too closely, or not at all?

Based on what you have heard or read about the program to compile telephone call logs and Internet communications, would you say you approve or disapprove of this government program?

Is that mainly because -- [ROTATED: you do not think the program seriously violates Americans’ civil liberties, (or is it mainly because) you think investigating terrorism is the more important goal, even if it violates some Americans’ civil liberties?

Do you think there would ever be circumstances in which it would be right for the government to create a database of telephone logs and Internet communications, or would it not be right for the government to do this under any circumstances?

If you knew that the federal government had computerized logs of your telephone calls or Internet communications stored in a database that it uses to track terrorist activity, how concerned would you be that your privacy rights had been violated -- very concerned, somewhat concerned, not too concerned, or not concerned at all?

As you may know, the Bush administration has been wiretapping telephone conversations between U.S. citizens living in the United States and suspected terrorists living in other countries without getting a court order allowing it to do so. Do you think the Bush administration was right or wrong in wiretapping these conversations without obtaining a court order?

Right

Wrong

No opinion

2006 Sep 15-17

55%

42

3

2006 Feb 9-12 ^

47%

50

3

2006 Jan 20-22 ^

46%

51

3

2006 Jan 6-8

50%

46

4

^ Asked of a half sample

As you may know, in the U.S. legal system the government is required to show defendants the evidence it has against them. In some terrorism trials, the government believes that showing defendants certain evidence may put American lives in danger. In your view, which would be worse -- [ROTATED: convicting defendants of terrorism based on evidence they are never shown, (or) having some terrorism suspects go free because the government chooses to withhold evidence rather than show it to the defendant]?

Convicting
defendants on
evidence they
are never shown

Letting some
terrorists go free

No
opinion

2006 Sep 15-17

48%

41

11

When interrogating prisoners, members of the U.S. military are required to abide by the Geneva Convention standards which prohibit the humiliating and degrading treatment of prisoners. When the CIA or Central Intelligence Agency questions suspects whom they believe to have information about possible terror plots against the United States, do you think -- [ROTATED: they should have to abide by the same Geneva Convention standards that apply to the U.S. military (or) they should be able to use more forceful interrogation techniques than the Geneva Convention standards that apply to the U.S. military]?

Abide by
Geneva
Convention
standards

Able to use
more forceful
techniques

Other/
Depends
(vol.)

No
opinion

2006 Sep 15-17

57%

38

2

3

(vol.) = Volunteered response

Do you think the Bush administration -- [ROTATED: has gone too far, has been about right, or has not gone far enough] -- in restricting people's civil liberties in order to fight terrorism]?

Too
far

About
right

Not far enough

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

2006 May 12-13

41

34

19

6

2006 Jan 6-8

38

40

19

3

2003 Nov 10-12 ^

28

48

21

3

2003 Aug 25-26 ^

21

55

19

5

2002 Sep 2-4 ^

15

55

26

4

2002 Jun 21-23 ^

11

60

25

4

^ Asked of a half sample

As you may know, as part of its efforts to investigate terrorism, a federal government agency obtained records from three of the largest U.S. telephone companies in order to create a database of billions of telephone numbers dialed by Americans. How closely have you been following the news about this -- very closely, somewhat closely, not too closely, or not at all?

Very
closely

Somewhat
closely

Not too
closely

Not
at all

No
opinion

2006 May 12-13

28%

39

20

12

*

* Less than 0.5%

Based on what you have heard or read about this program to collect phone records, would you say you approve or disapprove of this government program?

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

2006 May 12-13

43%

51

6

Is that mainly because -- [ROTATED: you do not think the program seriously violates Americans' civil liberties, (or is it mainly because) you think investigating terrorism is the more important goal, even if it violates some Americans' civil liberties]

ASKED OF ADULTS WHO APPROVE OF GOVERNMENT PROGRAM

Does not
seriously violate
civil liberties

Terrorism more\
important, even
if violates
civil liberties

No
opinion

2006 May 12-13

27%

69

4

Do you think there would ever be circumstances in which it would be right for the government to create a database of telephone records, or would it not be right for the government to do this under any circumstances?

ASKED OF ADULTS WHO DISAPPROVE OF GOVERNMENT PROGRAM

Yes, are

No, are not

No opinion

2006 May 12-13

34%

60

6

Based on what you have heard or read about this program, do you think it -- [ROTATED: definitely violates the law, probably violates the law, probably does not violate the law, (or) definitely does not violate the law]?

Definitely
violates
the law

Probably violates
the law

Probably
does not
violate
the law

Definitely
does not
violate
the law

No
opinion

2006 May 12-13

22%

32

25

14

8

If you knew that the federal government had your telephone records, how concerned would you be -- very concerned, somewhat concerned, not too concerned, or not concerned at all?

Very
concerned

Somewhat
concerned

Not too concerned

Not concerned
at all

No
opinion

2006 May 12-13

22%

13

20

44

1

If you knew that your telephone company had provided your telephone records to the federal government as part of this program, would you feel that your personal privacy had been violated, or not?

Yes, would
feel violated

No,
would not

No
opinion

2006 May 12-13

57%

42

1

Would you favor or oppose holding immediate congressional hearings to investigate this program?

Favor

Oppose

No opinion

2006 May 12-13

62%

34

4

How concerned are you that -- [ITEMS A-B ROTATED, ITEM C READ LAST] -- very concerned, somewhat concerned, not too concerned, or not concerned at all?

A. Based on this program, the government would misidentify innocent Americans as possible terrorist suspects

Very
concerned

Somewhat
concerned

Not too
concerned

Not concerned
at all

No
opinion

2006 May 12-13

36%

29

21

14

1

B. Based on this program, the government would listen in on telephone conversations within the U.S. without first obtaining a warrant

Very
concerned

Somewhat
concerned

Not too
concerned

Not concerned
at all

No
opinion

2006 May 12-13

41%

22

17

19

1

C. The government is gathering other information on the general public, such as their bank records or Internet usage

Very
concerned

Somewhat
concerned

Not too
concerned

Not concerned
at all

No
opinion

2006 May 12-13

45%

22

15

17

1

As you may know, shortly after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, a law called the Patriot Act was passed which makes it easier for the federal government to get information on suspected terrorists through court-ordered wiretaps and searches. How familiar are you with the Patriot Act -- very familiar, somewhat familiar, not too familiar, or not at all familiar?

Very
familiar

Somewhat
familiar

Not too
familiar

Not at all
familiar

No
opinion

2006 Jan 6-8

17%

59

18

6

*

2004 Feb 16-17

13%

46

27

14

*

2003 Nov 10-12 ^

12%

41

25

22

*

2003 Aug 25-26 ^

10%

40

25

25

--

* Less than 0.5%

^ Asked of a half sample

Based on what you have heard or read about the Patriot Act, do you think -- [ROTATED: all of its provisions should be kept, that it needs minor changes, that it needs major changes, (or that) it needs to be eliminated completely]?

Keep all
provisions

Minor
changes

Major
changes

Eliminated
completely

No
opinion

2006 Jan 6-8

13%

50

24

7

7

As you may know, shortly after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, a law called the Patriot Act was passed. That law deals with the ways the federal government can obtain private information on people living in the U.S. who are suspected of having ties with terrorists. Based on what you have read or heard, do you think the Patriot Act -- [ROTATED: goes too far, is about right, or does not go far enough] -- in restricting people's civil liberties in order to investigate suspected terrorism?

Goes
too far

About
right

Not far
enough

No
opinion

2005 Dec 16-18 ^

34%

44

18

4

2005 Jun 24-26

30%

41

21

8

^ Asked of a half sample

As you may know, shortly after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, a law called the Patriot Act was passed. That law deals with the ways the federal government can obtain private information on people living in the U.S. who are suspected of having ties with terrorists. How familiar are you with the Patriot Act -- very familiar, somewhat familiar, not too familiar, or not at all familiar?

Very
familiar

Somewhat
familiar

Not too
familiar

Not at all
familiar

No
opinion

2005 Jun 24-26

12%

52

25

11

--

Next, I will read a list of things government officials can do when conducting a terrorism investigation. For each, please tell me if this is something government officials can do specifically because of the Patriot Act, or if it is something they could have done prior to the Patriot Act being passed. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

BASED ON 505 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A

A. Hold terrorism suspects indefinitely without charging them with a crime or allowing them access to a lawyer

Can do because
of the Patriot Act

Could do before
Patriot Act passed

No
opinion

2004 Feb 16-17

60%

26

14

B. Require non-U.S. citizens who are suspected of terrorism offenses to face a trial before a military tribunal

Can do because
of the Patriot Act

Could do before
Patriot Act passed

No
opinion

2004 Feb 16-17

51%

34

15

C. Enter houses of worship or attend political rallies

Can do because
of the Patriot Act

Could do before
Patriot Act passed

No
opinion

2004 Feb 16-17

28%

54

18


 

One provision in the Patriot Act allows federal agents to secretly search a U.S. citizen's home without informing the person of that search for an unspecified period of time. Do you approve or disapprove of this provision?

BASED ON 501 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

2004 Feb 16-17

26%

71

3

Another provision in the Patriot Act requires businesses, including hospitals, bookstores, and libraries, to turn over records in terrorism investigations and prevents the businesses from revealing to their patients or clients that these records have been turned over to the government. Do you approve or disapprove of this provision?

BASED ON 501 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

2004 Feb 16-17

45%

51

4

One provision of the Patriot Act allows federal agents in terrorism or money-laundering investigations to submit lists of people to financial institutions. The institutions are required to reveal whether the people on the lists have accounts with them. The federal agents can submit the names without a judge's prior approval. Do you approve or disapprove of this provision?

BASED ON 501 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

2004 Feb 16-17

51%

45

4

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