Pew Research Center's Lee Rainie and Shiva Maniam take a look take a look at conflicting sentiment among Americans when it comes to the trade-off between security needs and personal privacy, including government surveillance.
According to a series of Pew Research Center surveys over the past decade, major world events can increase anxieties which in turn greatly influence public attitudes on privacy issues. In December, shortly after the San Bernardino and Paris shootings, 56% of Americans were concerned that the government’s anti-terror policies have not gone far enough to protect the country, and 28% expressed concern that the policies have gone too far in restricting individual civil liberties.
Two years prior (amid Edward Snowden’s National Security Agency revelations), significantly more Americans (47%) said their bigger concern was that anti-terror programs had overstepped boundaries in restricting civil liberties, and 35% expressed felt the government hadn't done enough to protect the country.
One consistent finding over the years about public attitudes related to privacy and societal security is that people’s answers often depend on the context. The language of the questions we ask sometimes affects the way people respond.