A majority of the American public believe the United States government actively engages in widespread monitoring of private citizens and believe the government could be invading their privacy.
According to a new Monmouth University Poll, a bipartisan public majority believe that national policy is being manipulated or directed by group of unelected government officials referred to as the “Deep State.”
The poll notes that Americans of color on the center and left of the political spectrum and NRA members on the right were among those that are most concerned regarding the overreach of government potentially invading their privacy.
The poll found that 23% of the American public were worried and 30% were somewhat worried about the United States government monitoring their daily lives and activities.
57% of independents, 51% of Republicans, and 50% of Democrats are somewhat worried about the U.S. government monitoring their activities, while another 24% were not worried and 22% are not worried at all.
“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, who is the director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.
“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,” said Murray.
According to the poll:
Few Americans (18%) say government monitoring or spying on U.S. citizens is usually justified, with most (53%) saying it is only sometimes justified. Another 28% say this activity is rarely or never justified. Democrats (30%) and independents (31%) are somewhat more likely than Republicans (21%) 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%) feel that unelected or appointed government officials have too much influence in determining federal policy. Just 26% say the right balance of power exists between elected and unelected officials in determining policy. Democrats (59%), Republicans (59%) and independents (62%) agree that appointed officials hold too much sway in the federal government.
Few Americans (13%) are very familiar with the term “Deep State;” another 24% are somewhat familiar, while 63% say they are not familiar with this term. However, when the term is described as a group of unelected government and military officials who secretly manipulate or direct national policy, nearly 3-in-4 (74%) say they believe this type of apparatus exists in Washington. This includes 27% who say it definitely exists and 47% who say it probably exists. Only 1-in-5 say it does not exist (16% probably not and 5% definitely not). Belief in the probable existence of a Deep State comes from more than 7-in-10 Americans in each partisan group, although Republicans (31%) and independents (33%) are somewhat more likely than Democrats (19%) to say that the Deep State definitely exists.
Americans of black, Latino and Asian backgrounds (35%) are more likely than non-Hispanic whites (23%) to say that the Deep State definitely exists. Non-whites (60%) are also somewhat more likely than whites (50%) to worry about the government monitoring them and similarly more likely to believe there is already widespread government monitoring of U.S. citizens (60% and 49%, respectively). More non-whites (35%) than whites (23%) say that such monitoring is rarely or never justified.
The Monmouth University Poll also finds that NRA members (43%) are significantly more likely than other Americans (25%) to definitely believe in the existence of a Deep State operation in DC. In a Monmouth poll released earlier this month, NRA members voiced opposition to the establishment of a national gun registry database in part because of their fear it would be used to track other activities of gun owners. NRA members (63%) are somewhat more likely than other Americans (51%) to worry about the government monitoring them and similarly are more likely to believe there is already widespread government monitoring of U.S. citizens (61% and 51%, respectively). However, there are no significant differences between NRA members (30%) and others (26%) on whether such monitoring is rarely or never justified when it does occur. The opinion of gun owners who are not NRA members are more similar to non-gun owners than they are to NRA members on these questions.
“Anxiety about a possible ‘Deep State’ is prevalent in both parties, but each has key constituent groups who express even greater concerns about the potential for government overreach. This includes racial and ethnic groups who still experience the effects of historical prejudice as well as gun owners who fear their constitutional rights are being threatened,” said Murray. “Can those fears be allayed or will they intensify and spread? Or is this just the new normal? This is something we will have to keep tracking.”
(Crusader Journal Staff)