New Poll Shows Americans Anxious About Privacy
Latest Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll Reveals Skepticism,
Resignation about Data Collection and Surveillance and Varying Degrees of
Trust in Institutions to Responsibly Use Personal Information
WASHINGTON, June 13, 2013
WASHINGTON, June 13, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --Big Brother is watching and
Americans know it. New figures from the quarterly Allstate/National Journal
Heartland Monitor Poll show that most Americans exhibit a healthy amount of
skepticism and resignation about data collection and surveillance, and show
varying degrees of trust in institutions to responsibly use their personal
information. Recent headlines focusing on government collection of telephone
records within the United States may further stoke the underlying worries that
the American public has about data privacy.
Watch a live briefing on key findings from the latest Heartland Monitor Poll
today at 8:30 a.m., ET at http://www.nationaljournal.com/events, featuring
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), member of the Bipartisan Congressional Privacy
Caucus; Jon Leibowitz, former chairman of the Federal Trade Commission; and
other privacy experts.
The 17th quarterly Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll
investigates American attitudes and opinions on the collection and use of
their personal information by various groups and institutions and how "big
data" affects their personal privacy. The poll asks Americans their impression
of the likelihood that their personal information is available to the
government, businesses, individuals, and other groups without their consent –
and to what extent people believe they can control how much personal
information is shared.
A full 85 percent of Americans believe their communications history, like
phone calls, emails and Internet use, are accessible to the government,
businesses, and others. Two in three (66 percent) feel that they have little
or no control over the type of information that is collected and used by
various groups and organizations. Fifty-nine percent, meanwhile, feel that
they are unable to correct inaccurate personal information.
The poll – conducted days before the disclosure of top-secret government
surveillance programs – also finds that just 48 percent of Americans have
"some" or a "great deal" of trust in the government when it comes to the use
of their personal data. Similarly, cell phone and Internet service providers
are trusted by just 48 percent of the public. Healthcare providers and
employers were seen as the most trustworthy institutions with respect to
responsible use of information, with 80 percent of all respondent and 79
percent of employed respondents saying they have "some" or a "great deal" of
trust in them, respectively.
The survey finds that Americans are also divided on possible steps to improve
national security, with just 10 percent supporting expanded government
monitoring of phone and email activities. Rather, the public is more likely to
favor increased use of camera surveillance of public places, with 44 percent
supporting the measure, followed by 16 percent of respondents in favor of
"increased censorship of websites and less freedom to access sources on the
Internet." However, a full 42 percent of respondents said they oppose all
With respect to privacy in the future, nine in ten poll respondents said they
feel that they have less privacy than previous generations and expect the next
generation will be even worse off. Meanwhile, a clear majority (88 percent)
favors a federal policy to require the deletion of online information and
nearly four in ten (37 percent) report they have personally experienced
fraudulent use of their personal information to make purchases without their
Importantly, a wide majority of Americans (79 percent) believe that IRS
scrutiny of the political activities of certain groups is typical and has
probably happened under previous administrations.
When asked to weigh the relative benefits and drawbacks of personal data
collection, Americans generally believe the practice has a mostly negative
impact. More than half (55 percent) say the collection and use of information
is "mostly negative" because the information can be collected and used in a
way that can risk personal privacy, peoples' safety, financial security, and
individual liberties. A minority (38 percent) believe it is "mostly positive"
because more information can result in better decisions about how to improve
the economy, grow businesses, provide better service, and increase public
Despite an overall sense of discomfort with information collection and usage,
Americans do recognize they could receive some transactional benefits or
advantages in exchange for their personal information. More than two in three
Americans believe that the collection and use of their personal information is
likely to result in a greater ability to stay in touch with friends and
relatives, receive more information about interesting products and services,
and result in access to lower prices.
"Americans are understandably concerned that the fundamental American right to
privacy is no more," said Marci Kaminsky, senior vice president of public
relations for Allstate Insurance Company. "A majority of Americans aren't
happy or comfortable about the collection and use of their personal
information, and they have mixed feelings about whether they can trust that
their information is being used responsibly. Protecting privacy and rebuilding
trust with Americans will require shared accountability and compromise among
the public and private sectors, as well as among individual citizens."
"This survey found Americans teetering between anticipation and anxiety as
they sort through the implications of the brave new world of communications,
connectivity, and surveillance," added Ronald Brownstein, editorial director
of Atlantic Media. "Just as revealing, follow-up interviews with respondents
found that many people feel as if they have no real opportunity to personally
determine whether the benefits of the new communications world justify the
cost: since few see opting out of the Internet and connectivity revolution as
a real option, many of those interviewed project the sense that the erosion of
privacy is another broad trend, like the decline of employment security, that
is being imposed on average Americans by forces beyond their control. In that
way, these new findings strongly echo perhaps the central chord of the
previous 16 Heartland Monitor surveys: the widespread belief among Americans
that they are 'paddling alone' without support from any institution as they
navigate the turbulence of modern life."
Key findings from the 17th Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll
follow and are available via PDF. Additional information on the entire polling
series can be found at: http://www.theheartlandvoice.com/category/insights.
1. Americans recognize and expect that a wide array of information about
them is being collected by various groups and organizations. And, most feel
they have very little control over the collection and use of this information.
oEighty-five percent of Americans say it is likely that information about
their communications history, like phone calls, emails and internet use is
available for businesses, government, individuals, and other groups to
access without their consent.
oA solid majority of Americans believe that information about them is
collected and used without their knowledge, most notably by communications
providers, financial institutions, the government, and insurance
oTwo in three (66 percent) feel like they have not very much control or no
control at all over the type of information about them that is collected
and used by businesses, government, individuals, and other groups.
oAnother 59 percent feel that they are unable to fix incorrect information
about them or remove unwanted information.
oThere is a near universal acknowledgement among Americans that they have
less privacy than previous generations when it comes to their personal
information (90 percent) and 93 percent believe that the next generation
will have even less.
2. Americans express a healthy level of skepticism and concern about the
breadth and depth of data collection and use.
oMore than half (55 percent) say the collection and use of information is
MOSTLY NEGATIVE because the information can be collected and used in a way
that can risk personal privacy, peoples' safety, financial security, and
oA minority (38 percent) believe it is MOSTLY POSITIVE because more
information can result in better decisions about how to improve the
economy, grow businesses, provide better service, and increase public
oAmericans report high levels of concern with the use of information about
them being used by businesses, government, individuals, and other groups
without their consent.
oA majority of Americans (57 percent) are most concerned with having their
oEqual percentages (47 percent) believe that "being able to connect with
people all over the world and access information on just about any subject
is worth the potential privacy tradeoffs" and that "the ease of
communicating and locating information online has made it too easy for
personal information to be shared and is not worth the risks."
3. Americans grant varying degrees of trust to different institutions when
it comes to responsibly using their information.
oThe groups and institutions seen as most trustworthy to use information
responsibly are those known to "do good" like healthcare providers (80
percent) and law enforcement (71 percent) and those with whom people have
entered a close, collaborative arrangement like their employer (79
percent) and insurance companies (63 percent).
oThe government (48 percent), political parties (37 percent), and the media
(29 percent) are on the low end of the spectrum in terms of trust. Given
the recent headlines, the IRS is seen as trusted by just over half of
Americans (53 percent), with a higher rating than the government (48
percent) as a whole.
4. Throughout the survey, there is a sharp generational contrast when it
comes to opinions on the collection and use of information by various
oAmericans 39 and younger are close to evenly split on the impact of the
collection and use of information by various sources, with 46 percent
seeing a mostly positive impact and 50 percent seeing a mostly negative
impact. Among those ages 40 and older, just 33 percent see a mostly
positive impact to the collection and use of information while 58 percent
see a mostly negative impact.
oSimilarly, regarding the collection and use of their personal information,
Americans 39 and younger are more comfortable than concerned (53
percent-46 percent) while those 40 and older are distinctly more concerned
(36 percent-61 percent).
5. Americans express strong support for control over their online
information, believe that security cameras play an important role in
protecting the public, and overwhelmingly believe that IRS scrutiny of
political activities is a typical activity.
oInternet users are nearly unanimous (88%) in their support for a federal
law that would require companies that operate online to permanently delete
any personal information or activity if requested by an individual.
oRegarding the recent debate over IRS scrutiny of the political activities
of certain groups, a wide majority of Americans (79 percent) believe that
this activity is "typical and has probably happened before during previous
oNearly two in three (62 percent) believe that security cameras serve an
important role in protecting the public from criminals and terrorists,
even if some law-abiding citizens may be uncomfortable being recorded in
their daily lives.
oHowever, just 44 percent say they support increased camera surveillance of
public places, only 16 percent say they support increased censorship of
websites and less freedom to access certain online sources, and just 10
percent support expanded government monitoring of cell phone and email
activities. Four in ten (42 percent) say they support none of these
6. Despite an overall sense of discomfort with information collection and
usage, Americans recognize that they could receive some transactional benefits
or advantages in exchange for their personal information.
oMore than two in three Americans believe that the collection and use of
their personal information is likely to result in more ability to stay in
touch with friends and relatives, more information about interesting
products and services, and access to lower prices.
oMost Americans also believe that the collection and use of data will
provide them with better information about health risks and news events,
and give them the ability to connect with other people of similar
oAmericans are of mixed opinions about whether the collection and use of
data will result in any increase in safety and security, lower rates on
insurance, greater access to public assistance programs, or more
professional or business opportunities.
7. President Obama's approval numbers have not suffered in the face of
multiple controversies and questions about his Administration.
oJust 30 percent of Americans believe the country is headed in the right
direction. Since the first Heartland Monitor poll in April 2009 showed a
plurality of believing the country was headed in the right direction (47
percent-42 percent), that indicator has topped 40 percent just once, in
November of last year.
oPresident Obama's job approval rating is at 48 percent and has shown
remarkable resiliency in the face of recent headlines about the IRS,
Benghazi, and the AP news scandal. His approval is actually up 2 points
from April and has held between 44 and 51 percent for more than two years.
oJust 17 percent approve of the job Congress is doing, the same percentage
measure in April.
8. Americans remain nervous, yet stubbornly optimistic about their personal
oThere is a clear split between those who say their financial situation is
excellent or good (49 percent) and those who say it is fair or poor (51
oNearly half (47 percent) now expect their personal finances to improve by
this time next year.
oMore than eight in ten (82 percent) say that all things considered,
including their finances, their family, and their health, that things are
generally going somewhat or very well in their life.
Since April 2009, the quarterly Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor
Polls have explored American attitudes on the changing economy. The most
recent Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll was conducted by FTI
Consulting, from May 29 – June 2, 2013 among N=1,000 American adults age 18+.
Respondents were reached via landline and cell phone. The sample margin of
error for a sample of 1,000 respondents is +/- 3.1 percent.
The Allstate Corporation (NYSE: ALL) is the nation's largest publicly held
personal lines insurer, serving approximately 16 million households through
its Allstate, Encompass, Esurance and Answer Financial brand names and
Allstate Financial business segment. Allstate branded insurance products
(auto, home, life and retirement) and services are offered through Allstate
agencies, independent agencies, and Allstate exclusive financial
representatives, as well as via www.allstate.com, www.allstate.com/financial
and 1-800 Allstate^®, and are widely known through the slogan "You're In Good
Hands With Allstate^®." As part of Allstate's commitment to strengthen local
communities, The Allstate Foundation, Allstate employees, agency owners and
the corporation provided $29 million in 2012 to thousands of nonprofit
organizations and important causes across the United States.
About National Journal Group
National Journal is Washington's premier source for 360-degree insight on
politics and policy. With up-to-the-minute breaking news and analysis at
NationalJournal.com, the essential intelligence of National Journal Daily, the
knowledge and depth of National Journal magazine, and the comprehensive
campaign coverage of National Journal Hotline, National Journal delivers
everything you need to know to stay ahead of the curve in Washington.
About FTI Consulting
FTI Consulting, Inc. is a global business advisory firm dedicated to helping
organizations protect and enhance enterprise value in an increasingly complex
legal, regulatory and economic environment. With over 3,900 employees located
in 24 countries, FTI Consulting professionals work closely with clients to
anticipate, illuminate and overcome complex business challenges in areas such
as investigations, litigation, mergers and acquisitions, regulatory issues,
reputation management, strategic communications and restructuring. The Company
generated $1.58 billion in revenues during fiscal year 2012. More information
can be found at www.fticonsulting.com.
SOURCE The Allstate Corporation
Contact: Media Inquiries: Matthew Clark, FTI Consulting, 202-728-8766,
firstname.lastname@example.org; or Kate Hollcraft, Allstate Insurance
Company, 847-402-5600, Kate.email@example.com; or Natalie Raabe, The
Atlantic, 202-266-7533, firstname.lastname@example.org
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