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Most Americans value privacy over safety, poll shows

President Obama’s efforts to curb spying on US citizens did not impress. Aude Guerrucci/EPA/Pool

WASHINGTON — Most Americans are unimpressed with President Obama’s efforts to restore trust in government following disclosures about secret surveillance programs that swept up the phone records of hundreds of millions of people in the United States.

And Americans are increasingly placing personal privacy ahead of being kept safe from terrorists, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. More than 60 percent of respondents said they value privacy over antiterror protections. That’s up slightly from 58 percent in a similar poll in August.

Obama has been fighting to regain public trust after a former National Security Agency analyst last year revealed some of the intelligence community’s secrets about spying on Americans. The public, Congress, and allies were shocked to learn the extent of the NSA’s post-9/11 surveillance, including the collection and storage of Americans’ phone records.


Last week the president announced new limits on the way the intelligence community accesses phone records from hundreds of millions of Americans. He said he was moving toward eventually stripping the massive data collection from the government’s hands. And he called for a panel of advocates to represent privacy and civil liberty concerns before the secret court that oversees the surveillance programs.

But nearly 60 percent of poll respondents said they disapprove of Obama’s handling of intelligence surveillance policies. And 61 percent said they prioritize protecting Americans’ rights and freedoms over making sure Americans are safe from terrorists.