A majority of the American public believe that the U.S. government engages in widespread monitoring of its own citizens and worry that the government could be invading their own privacy, according to a Monmouth University poll released this week.
The poll of 803 adults also finds a large bipartisan majority who feel that national policy is being manipulated or directed by a “Deep State” of unelected government officials. Americans of color on in the center and on the left of the political spectrum, and NRA members on the right, are among those most worried about the reach of government prying into average citizens’ lives.
Just over half of the public is either very worried (23 percent) or somewhat worried (30 percent) about the U.S. government monitoring their activities and invading their privacy.
There are no significant partisan differences — 57 percent of independents, 51 percent of Republicans, and 50 percent of Democrats — are at least somewhat worried the federal government is monitoring their activities.
Another 24 percent of the American public are not too worried and 22 percent are not at all worried.
Fully 8-in-10 believe that the U.S. government currently monitors or spies on the activities of American citizens, including a majority (53 percent) who say this activity is widespread and another 29 percent who say such monitoring happens but is not widespread. Just 14 percent say this monitoring does not happen at all. There are no substantial partisan differences in these results.
“This is a worrisome finding. The strength of our government relies on public faith in protecting our freedoms, which is not particularly robust. And it’s not a Democratic or Republican issue. These concerns span the political spectrum,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.
Few Americans (18 percent) say government monitoring or spying on U.S. citizens is usually justified, with most (53 percent) saying it is only sometimes justified. Another 28 percent say this activity is rarely or never justified. Democrats (30 percent) and independents (31 percent) are somewhat more likely than Republicans (21 percent) to say government monitoring of U.S. citizens is rarely or never justified.
Turning to the Washington political infrastructure as a whole, 6-in-10 Americans (60 percent) feel that unelected or appointed government officials have too much influence in determining federal policy.
Just 26 percernt say the right balance of power exists between elected and unelected officials in determining policy. Democrats (59 percent), Republicans (59 percent) and independents (62 percent) agree that appointed officials hold too much sway in the federal government.
“We usually expect opinions on the operation of government to shift depending on which party is in charge. But there’s an ominous feeling by Democrats and Republicans alike that a ‘Deep State’ of unelected operatives are pulling the levers of power,” Murray said.
The poll has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.