Favorability ratings for the National Security Agency (NSA) have changed little since the fall of 2013, shortly after former NSA analyst Edward Snowden’s revelations of the agency’s data-mining activities. About half (51%) view the NSA favorably, compared with 37% who have an unfavorable view.Young people are more likely than older Americans to view the intelligence agency positively. About six-in-ten (61%) of those under 30 view the NSA favorably, compared with 40% of those 65 and older.
We’ve often said that American public opinion on civil liberties swings with the times. In times of low-threat peace, Americans clamor for privacy and government restrictions. In times of war, they are comfortable with, even perhaps desirous of, restrictions on liberty. But though that cycle will likely continue to drag American politics first one way, then the other, it may be that there’s a more permanent generational shift going on. Perhaps younger Americans, weaned on Facebook and Twitter and other low-privacy internet tools, simply don’t care as much about civil liberties as traditionally understood. They might be much more comfortable trading privacy for services or protections they like than their parents ever were.