West Long Branch, NJ - As the federal government moves closer to formulating a policy for the domestic use of unmanned aerial vehicles - or drones - the Monmouth University Poll finds the American public continues to support many applications of this technology. The public is not overwhelmingly confident, though, that federal or local law officials will use drones appropriately and they back provisions to require court orders before employing drones for police operations.
The Department of Homeland Security has been developing drones to patrol the nation's borders and the Federal Aviation Administration has been revising rules to widen the use of drones for other domestic purposes. Fewer than half of Americans have heard either a great deal (18%) or some (29%) about the domestic use of drones. Another 27% have heard a little and 25% have heard nothing at all about this. This contrasts with 6-in-10 Americans who have heard either a great deal (29%) or some (31%) about the use of unmanned military surveillance drones overseas.
The poll asked a national sample of adults about three possible uses of unmanned drones by U.S. law enforcement. An overwhelming majority of Americans support the idea of using drones to help with search and rescue missions (83%). Six-in-ten also support using drones to control illegal immigration on the nation's borders (62%). On the other hand, only 21% support using drones to issue speeding tickets. These results are basically unchanged from a Monmouth University Poll conducted last year.
The poll also asked about support levels for using weaponized drones in certain situations. While a significant majority support using drones to control illegal immigration in general, only 44% support allowing drones armed with weapons to patrol the nation's borders. Just over half (52%) would support the use of armed drones in hostage situations.
"Support for the use of law enforcement drones in U.S. airspace has not changed in the past year, but this new poll shows there are significant caveats. For one, the public overwhelmingly supports judicial oversight before drones are employed," said Patrick Murray, director of the New Jersey-based Monmouth University Polling Institute.
Fully 3-in-4 Americans (76%) say that law enforcement agencies should be required to obtain a warrant from a judge before using drones. Only 14% say that law enforcement agencies should be able to decide on their own when to use drones.
Just under half (47%) say they are at least somewhat confident that federal law enforcement agencies will use drones appropriately, but 49% are not confident. Slightly fewer - 44% - are confident that their local police departments will use drones appropriately, while 51% are not confident. Furthermore, only about 1-in-10 Americans are "very" confident in federal (11%) and local (12%) agencies' potential use of drones.
The routine employment of law enforcement drones could raise privacy issues, with 2-in-3 Americans expressing concern in this area. Specifically, 49% of Americans would be very concerned and 20% would be somewhat concerned about their own privacy if U.S. law enforcement started using unmanned drones with high tech surveillance cameras and recording equipment. Another 15% would be just a little concerned and 14% would not be concerned at all. The 69% who express at least some concern over privacy is slightly higher than the 64% who felt the same a year ago.
The latest Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone with 1012 adults from July 25 to 30, 2013. This sample has a margin of error of ± 3.1 percent. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, New Jersey.
The questions referred to in this release are as follows:
1. How much have you read or heard about the use of unmanned surveillance aircraft, sometimes called drones, by the U.S. military overseas – a great deal, some, just a little, or nothing at all?
2. And how much have you read or heard about the use of unmanned surveillance drone aircraft by law enforcement agencies inside the United States – a great deal, some, just a little, or nothing at all?
[QUESTIONS 3 THROUGH 5 WERE ROTATED]
3. Do you support or oppose the use of drones to issue speeding tickets?
4. Do you support or oppose the use of drones to control illegal immigration on the nation’s border?
5. Do you support or oppose the use of drones to help with search and rescue missions?
[QUESTIONS 6 AND 7 WERE ROTATED]
6. Do you support or oppose allowing law enforcement to use drones armed with weapons in hostage situations?
7. Do you support or oppose allowing law enforcement to use drones armed with weapons to patrol the nation’s border?
8. How concerned would you be about your own privacy if U.S. law enforcement starts using unmanned drones with high tech cameras and recording equipment? Would you be very concerned, somewhat concerned, only a little concerned, or not at all concerned?
[QUESTIONS 9 AND 10 WERE ROTATED]
9. How confident are you that your LOCAL police department will use drones appropriately – very, somewhat, not too, or not at all confident?
10. How confident are you that FEDERAL law enforcement agencies will use drones appropriately – very, somewhat, not too, or not at all confident?
11. Should law enforcement agencies be required to obtain a warrant from a judge before using drones or should agencies be able to decide on their own when to use drones?
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute on July 25 to 30, 2013 with a national random sample of 1,012 adults age 18 and older, including 708 via live interview on a landline telephone and 304 via live interview on a cell phone. Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey questionnaire design, data weighting and analysis. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. Sampling error increases as the sample size decreases, so statements based on various population subgroups, such as separate figures reported by gender or party identification, are subject to more error than are statements based on the total sample. In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.
It is the Monmouth University Polling Institute’s policy to conduct surveys of all adult residents, including voters and non-voters, on issues that affect the entire nation. Specific voter surveys are conducted when appropriate during election cycles.
Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and results by key demographic groups.
Download this Poll Report with all tables