Poll: Most Americans satisfied with intelligence agencies' surveillance authorities

A majority of voters say they are satisfied with the authority given to U.S. intelligence agencies to monitor Americans suspected of committing a crime, according to a poll released Thursday.

Fifty-one percent of respondents in a recent Hill-HarrisX survey said the intelligence community has the "right amount of power" in determining who should be subject to government surveillance.

Under federal law, agencies like the FBI and NSA cannot monitor citizens suspected of committing crimes unless they receive court authorization. Those requests came under public scrutiny in recent years following revelations made by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Government documents collected by privacy advocates indicate that the vast majority of monitoring requests filed with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court have been granted.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpPresenting the 2020 Democratic bracket The time has come for the Democrats to act, finally DHS expedites border wall replacement in Arizona, Texas MORE and many of his prominent supporters have criticized intelligence agencies after the FBI obtained warrants to monitor a former aide to his 2016 presidential campaign. According to Trump and his allies, the intelligence community is part of an informal "Deep State" which seeks to undermine him out of loyalty to former President Obama and Democrats.

In the Hill-HarrisX survey, GOP voters were more likely than independents or Democrats to say the FBI and NSA have too much power. Thirty-four percent of Republicans said intelligence agencies had too much authority, compared to 20 percent of Democrats and 27 percent of independents who said the same.

A majority of Democratic respondents, 55 percent, said the intelligence community has the right amount of power to decide who should be monitored, while 25 percent said it needs more authority.

While Republicans were more likely to be concerned that spy agencies have too much discretion, the plurality of GOP respondents — 49 percent — said they have enough power. Seventeen percent said executive branch authorities need more power when it comes to monitoring.

Half of independents said agencies have enough surveillance authority, while 23 percent said they need more power.

"Really, you can't take it out of the current partisan context," Ruy Teixeira, a political analyst with the left-leaning Center for American Progress told Hill.TV on Thursday.

"I think when Democrats hear this now, they're thinking about the various ways in which they think the Trump administration has tried to undermine the investigative capacities of various agencies in the government. And they have a negative reaction to that," he said.

—Matthew Sheffield