Fox News Poll: 65% believe NSA program prevented terrorist attacks in U.S.

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Two-thirds of American voters believe the National Security Agency’s surveillance program has prevented terrorist attacks.  At the same time, most lack trust in both the federal government -- and phone companies -- to protect their private information.

That’s according to a new Fox News poll released Wednesday.

Sections of the Patriot Act covering the NSA’s domestic spying program expired on Sunday after the U.S. Senate failed to act.  Legislation that would revise and resume the program was approved by the Senate Tuesday afternoon and signed by President Obama that night.

The poll was conducted Sunday through Tuesday nights.

The NSA surveillance program collects the phone and Internet records of millions of Americans.  Under the new law phone companies will store that data instead of the federal government.

That fails to put people at ease: 61 percent don’t trust Uncle Sam to keep their personal information confidential and 58 percent don’t trust phone companies -- despite rules that would limit the government’s access.

Only about one in 10 has “a great deal” of trust in the government (11 percent) or the phone companies (8 percent) to keep their info private.

Majorities believe the claims made by both sides in the NSA debate, yet they are more likely to believe the proponents’ assertion that the program has helped prevent terrorist attacks (65 percent) than the claim by opponents that Americans’ privacy has been harmed (57 percent).

Notably, voters rank terrorism second only to the economy as the most important issue facing the country.

When forced to choose, voters continue to think the surveillance program has more of an upside.  By a 7 percentage-point margin, they say the program is more likely to help catch terrorists than violate Americans’ privacy (49-42 percent).  Voters felt the same way last year by six points (50-44 percent).

Last year Democrats said the NSA program was more likely to help national security by 32 points.  That’s narrowed to 19 points.  Republicans have gone from thinking the surveillance does more to hurt Americans’ privacy by 11 points (January 2014) to saying it helps catch terrorists by 3 points today.

The Fox News poll is based on landline and cell phone interviews with 1,006 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide and was conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from May 31-June 2, 2015. The full poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.