CBS NEWS/NEW YORK TIMES POLL

For release: March 18, 2016
6:30 PM EDT

Apple, Privacy, and the Fight against Terrorism
March 11-15, 2016

Americans are divided over whether or not Apple should unlock the iPhone of one of the
suspects in the San Bernardino terrorist attack. 50% think Apple should unlock the
phone, though nearly as many – 45% - think it should not.

Younger Americans, independents, and iPhone owners side with Apple, while older
Americans, and most Republicans and Democrats, side with federal law enforcement
officials in this dispute.

More than eight in 10 Americans think it’s at least somewhat likely that if Apple creates a
way to unlock the iPhone it will create a precedent for the future, and two-thirds think it’s
at least somewhat likely it will make other iPhones more vulnerable to hackers. But twothirds also think it’s at least somewhat likely that the iPhone contains information that
could help the government in its investigation.

Generally, just 26% think the federal government has gone too far in infringing on
people’s privacy in the fight against terrorism, while the percentage who thinks the
government hasn’t gone far enough has risen. But 58% of Americans remain concerned
about losing some of their privacy in the fight against terrorism.

Americans are largely divided in the dispute between Apple and federal law enforcement
officials over whether or not the technology company should create a way to bypass the
encrypted password of one of the dead suspects in the San Bernardino terrorist attacks. 50% of
Americans think Apple should provide a way to unlock the iPhone. But nearly as many – 45% think it should not and side with Apple, which has said such a move would set a dangerous
precedent and compromise the privacy of other iPhone users.
Should Apple Create a Way to Unlock
the iPhone of the San Bernardino Attacker?
Should
50%
Should not
45
There is little difference among Americans on this issue based on income or education, but
there is a generational divide. Younger adults under 35 are opposed to Apple assisting the FBI
by creating software to bypass the iPhone’s encrypted password, while Americans 45 and older
think Apple should comply with the request. Americans between 35 and 44 are divided.

Politically, most Republicans and Democrats alike think Apple should create a way to unlock the
iPhone, while independents tend to think it should not. And Americans are more likely to side
with the federal government on this issue the more conservative they are.
Just over half of all Americans – 52% - report that they own some type of Apple product,
including 38% of Americans who own an iPhone. Most iPhone owners side with Apple, while
most who don’t own an iPhone side with the government.
Should Apple Create a Way to Unlock
the iPhone of the San Bernardino Attacker?
Should
Should not
Total
50%
45
Age 18-34
Age 35-44
Age 45-54
Age 55-64
Age 65+

35%
50%
55%
61%
59%

62
48
42
31
33

Republicans
Democrats
Independents

56%
55%
44%

42
40
50

Own iPhone
Do not own iPhone

45%
54%

51
41

More than four in five Americans think it’s at least somewhat likely that if Apple creates a way to
unlock the suspect’s iPhone, it will set a precedent for the federal government to make similar
requests from Apple or other technology companies, including 58% who think it is very likely.
Even those who want Apple to comply with the FBI’s request think this is at least somewhat
likely. Most Americans also think it’s at least somewhat likely that such a move will compromise
the security of other iPhones and make them more vulnerable to hackers.
Conversely, 68% of Americans think it’s likely that unlocking the iPhone will provide information
that will help to prevent future terrorist attacks, though just 32% think this is very likely.
Likelihood that Unlocking the iPhone Will…
Very
Somewhat
Set a precedent for the government
58%
25
Compromise the security of other iPhones
43%
24
Help prevent future terrorist attacks
32%
36

Not very/at all
14
28
27

Despite the dispute, Apple remains popular. 71% of Americans have a favorable opinion of the
technology company, just a slight decrease from 2011. Americans who own Apple products
rate the company particularly highly, but even those who side with the government on this issue
still mostly view Apple favorably.

Favorable
Not favorable

Opinion of Apple
Now
11/2011
71%
77%
20
8

Privacy and the Fight against Terrorism
Overall, just 26% of Americans think the U.S. government has gone too far in infringing on
people’s privacy in its efforts to fight terrorism - a 19 point drop from two years ago– while belief
that the government is not going far enough has risen 16 points. 40% think the balance has
been about right.
Infringing on People’s Privacy to Fight Terrorism:
The Government Has…
Now
2/2014
11/2013
Gone too far
26%
45%
43%
Not gone far enough
26
10
10
Balance about right
40
42
42

6/2013
36%
13
46

At the same time, concerns about personal privacy remain. 58% of Americans express at least
some concern about losing their privacy as a result of steps taken by the federal government to
fight terrorism, including more than a quarter (28%) who are very concerned. There has been
little change on this measure over the past three years.
Concern about Losing Privacy in Government’s Efforts to Fight Terrorism
Now
11/2015
1/2014
6/2013
Very/somewhat
58%
54%
59%
59%
Not very/not at all
40
44
41
40
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------This poll was conducted by telephone March 11-15, 2016 among a random sample of 1,022 adults
nationwide. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News and the New York Times by SSRS of
Media, PA. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones.
The poll employed a random digit dial methodology. For the landline sample, a respondent was randomly
selected from all adults in the household. For the cell sample, interviews were conducted with the person
who answered the phone.
Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish using live interviewers.
The data have been weighted to reflect U.S. Census figures on demographic variables.
The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage
points. The error for other subgroups may be higher and is available by request. The margin of error
includes the effects of standard weighting procedures which enlarge sampling error slightly.
This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

CBS News Poll
Apple, Privacy, and the Fight against Terrorism
March 11-15, 2016
01-02 Released separately
03. Overall, in its efforts to fight terrorism, do you think the US government has gone too far in
infringing on people’s privacy, or has it not gone far enough, or has the balance been about right?

Too far
Not far enough
About right
Don't know/No answer

** TOTAL RESPONDENTS **
Total Reps Dems Inds
%
%
%
%
26
20
22
33
26
41
22
20
40
36
48
35
8
3
8
11

Feb14c
%
45
10
42
2

04. How concerned are you about losing some of your privacy as a result of steps taken by the federal
government to fight terrorism –are you very concerned, somewhat concerned, not very concerned, or
not at all concerned?

Very concerned
Somewhat concerned
Not very concerned
Not at all concerned
Don't know/No answer

28
30
21
19
2

22
29
25
22
2

25
31
25
18
1

34
29
17
18
2

Nov15e
27
27
22
22
2

05-12 Released separately
13. Is your overall opinion of the technology company--Apple very favorable, mostly favorable, mostly
unfavorable, or very unfavorable?

Very favorable
Mostly favorable
Mostly unfavorable
Very unfavorable
Never heard of Apple
Don't know/No answer

24
47
12
8
1
7

21
44
16
9
*
10

27
51
10
7
1
4

24
46
12
9
1
8

Nov11b
31
46
6
2
2
4

14. How much have you heard or read about the dispute between federal law enforcement officials and
Apple about unlocking the iPhone of one of the suspects in the San Bernardino, California terrorist
attack in December – a lot, some, not much or nothing at all?

A lot
Some
Not much
Nothing
Don't know/No answer

** TOTAL RESPONDENTS **
Total Reps Dems Inds
%
%
%
%
42
46
43
39
30
32
30
28
12
12
14
11
14
10
11
19
2
1
1
3

15. As you may know, federal law enforcement officials have asked Apple to create a way to unlock the
iPhone of one of the suspects in the San Bernardino terrorist attack in order to help in their
investigation. Apple has refused, saying this would set a precedent that could compromise the privacy
of other iPhone users. Do you think Apple should create a way to unlock the iPhone, or not?
Should
Should not
Don't know/No answer

50
45
5

56
42
2

55
40
5

44
50
6

16. How likely do you think it is that unlocking the suspect’s iPhone will provide information that will
help to prevent future terrorist attacks?
Very likely
Somewhat likely
Not very likely
Not at all likely
Don't know/No answer

32
36
16
11
5

34
41
18
6
2

32
38
15
8
6

30
32
16
16
5

17. How likely do you think it is that creating a way to unlock the suspect’s iPhone will compromise the
security of other iPhones and Apple devices that would make them more vulnerable to hackers?
Very likely
Somewhat likely
Not very likely
Not at all likely
Don't know/No answer

43
24
15
13
5

38
23
19
17
4

42
30
13
10
5

46
21
14
13
6

18. How likely do you think it is that unlocking the suspect’s iPhone will set a precedent for the federal
government to make similar requests from Apple and other companies to unlock the data of other
devices in the future?
** TOTAL RESPONDENTS **
Total Reps Dems Inds
%
%
%
%
58
51
60
61
25
27
25
23
7
14
6
4
7
7
7
7
3
2
2
5

Very likely
Somewhat likely
Not very likely
Not at all likely
Don't know/No answer

19. Do you currently own any devices made by Apple, such as an iPhone, iPod, iPad, MacBook, or iMac?
IF YES: Is one of those devices an iPhone?
Yes, iPhone
Yes Apple device, but no iPhone
No Apple device
Don't know/No answer

Total respondents:

1,022

38
14
48
1

43
12
45
*

37
16
46
1

36
13
50
1