On the whole, though, Americans have grown more wary of government surveillance in the name of national security, the poll shows.
The poll asked about a variety of rights and liberties, including many of those outlined explicitly in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, as well as several protected by laws and court rulings.
It finds 44% now say the government is doing a good job protecting the freedom of the press, compared with 26% who think the government is doing a poor job. In both 2011 and 2015, about 6 in 10 said the government was doing a good job.
Americans are about equally divided on how the government is doing at protecting the freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. About one-third say it’s doing a good job and about one-third say it’s doing a poor job. In 2011 and 2015, views were slightly more positive than negative, though less than half of Americans said the country was doing a good job.
Tony Gay, 60, a retiree who lives in Cincinnati, said that he generally supported the government’s moves to protect civil liberties. He said his 10 years of Army service helped reinforce his opinion that sacrifice is sometimes necessary to safeguard freedoms.
“You can’t have your freedom 24/7 if there’s no one there to protect it,” Gay said. “So when they put restrictions on travel, I’m all for that, because it’s to make sure that I’m safe, and make sure that the person next to me is safe.”
Forty-three percent of Americans think the U.S. government is doing a good job protecting the right to vote, while 37% say it’s doing a poor job. By comparison, 70% said it was doing a good job in 2015 and 84% said the same in 2011.
Americans also are now divided on whether the government is doing a good or poor job protecting the right to bear arms, 35% to 36%, but in 2011, more said it was doing a good job than a poor one, 57% to 27%.
Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say the government is doing a good job of protecting several rights and freedoms, including the freedom of religion, the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press and the right to keep and bear arms.
But Democrats are somewhat more likely than Republicans to say the government is doing a poor job enforcing equal protection under the law, 54% to 46%. Views among Democrats and Republicans are largely similar on how well the government is protecting the right to vote, and the views among both have become notably less positive than in the earlier polls.
Even if he’s relatively comfortable with the government’s protection of basic civil liberties, Gay said he feels periodic review of the policies, and those making them, should be necessary.
“It’s like when you’re in politics, you have free rein,” Gay said. “It gives me mixed feelings about who is watching over us.”
Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP.
The AP-NORC poll of 1,729 adults was conducted Aug. 12-16 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.
This article originally appeared at the Associated Press.