01/12/06 FOX News Poll: Homeland Security and Wiretapping

A majority of Americans think the president should have the power to authorize eavesdropping on domestic phone calls with suspected terrorists without getting a warrant, though many say they are concerned government efforts to track terrorists are harming civil liberties.

Last month, President George W. Bush acknowledged that after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks he approved a warrant-less domestic wiretapping program. A new FOX News poll finds that a majority of Americans believe the president should have the power to authorize such a program.

By 58 percent to 36 percent, Americans think the president should have the power to authorize the National Security Agency (NSA) to monitor electronic communications of suspected terrorists without getting warrants, even if one end of the communication is in the United States. Furthermore, six in 10 say they are personally okay with the NSA monitoring their international telephone calls.

These results are parallel to those on related questions about the Patriot Act, which after receiving a short-term extension in December is now set to expire in early February. Overall, a 53 percent majority of Americans think the Patriot Act is a "good thing" for the country while less than a third (30 percent) think it’s a "bad thing."

Similarly, 59 percent of Americans think it has helped prevent terrorist attacks, and 57 percent support extending the act.

Republicans (81 percent) are significantly more likely than Democrats (44 percent) to believe the Patriot Act has helped prevent terrorist attacks, and are more than twice as likely to support renewing the act (85 percent Republicans and 40 percent Democrats).

"Indeed, one of the notable things about virtually all the questions related to homeland security is that the Bush position gains majority support because of the virtually unanimous support of the Republicans in the sample," comments Opinion Dynamics Chairman John Gorman. "Democrats and independents are divided, but Republicans deliver 8-to-1 or better support for the Bush position. This solid base has been a hallmark of political life for the last 5 years."

Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News on January 10-11.

Despite majorities supporting the Patriot Act and domestic surveillance programs, many are concerned about the rights of Americans being damaged. The poll finds that almost six in 10 say they are "very" (29 percent) or "somewhat" (30 percent) concerned that government efforts to track terrorists are harming the civil liberties of American citizens.

About half of the public (46 percent) attributes the absence of a terrorist attacks in the United States to the success of security measures, while 22 percent think it is more likely that no new attacks have been planned since 9/11 (20 percent say it’s some of both).

More than four years after 9/11, fully 84 percent of Americans say they are concerned about future terrorist attacks, about the same portion that has said so since 2002. Of those saying they are concerned about terrorist attacks, 49 percent say they are "very" concerned — significantly higher than the 26 percent that are "very" concerned about the spread of bird flu, but significantly lower than the 66 percent who feel that way about gas prices.

• PDF: Click here for full poll results.