FISA Fallout: Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe FBI breaks law when spying

'It's also important to note how widespread this belief has become,' Rasmussen said. 'The distrust comes from 66% of men and 64% of women; 72% of Republicans, 62% of Democrats; and 61% of Independents; 72% of black voters, 70% of Hispanics, and 63% of whites.'

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JTN Poll FBI Wednesday 04.08.2020
JTN Poll FBI Wednesday 04.08.2020
JTN Poll FBI Wednesday 04.08.2020
Last Updated:
April 8, 2020 - 3:21pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Nearly two-thirds of American say the FBI likely violates the law when spying on Americans, a stunning statistic from the Just the News Daily Poll with Scott Rasmussen that shows the work ahead that FBI Director Chris Wray faces to re-gain the public's trust.

"It's also important to note how widespread this belief has become," Rasmussen said. "The distrust comes from 66% of men and 64% of women; 72% of Republicans, 62% of Democrats; and 61% of Independents; 72% of black voters, 70% of Hispanics, and 63% of whites."

The FBI has come under fire after by Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who warned that the FBI is failing to follow its own rules when pursuing surveillance warrants in sensitive intelligence and terrorism cases, confirming that problems first exposed in the Russia collusion probe extend to other cases.

"It would be a mistake to conclude that all this is the result of the investigation into President Trump's campaign," Rasmussen cautioned. "Distrust in government and government agencies runs deep in America. It's been nearly half a century since a majority of voters trusted the federal government to do the right thing even most of the time. So, the latest disclosures highlighting abuse of the FISA process might be seen as confirming what voters have long suspected." 

Though strong majorities from both parties and among independents indicated widespread mistrust of the FBI, Rasmussen pointed out the strong distrust among Republicans in the poll.

"The partisan dynamics are interesting," he said. "The fact that Republicans are more suspicious than Democrats is almost certainly the result of the FBI's Russia investigation. In other settings, Republicans would be slightly more trusting of law enforcement."

Respondents were asked, "How likely is it that the FBI routinely breaks the law and illegally spies on American citizens?" They responded as below:

  • 30% Very Likely
  • 35% Somewhat Likely
  • 18% Not Very Likely
  • 7% Not at All Likely
  • 10% Not Sure

"The question wording was very strong," Rasmussen said. "We included the phrase 'routinely breaks the law' and also 'illegally spies.' In so doing, we made clear that we weren't asking if mistakes were occasionally made or if some rogue agents periodically crossed the line. That 65% of voters find such behavior is likely and routine is a stunning indictment of the FBI." 

The national survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted April 2-5, 2020 by Rasmussen, a polling veteran. Margin of sampling error: +/- 2.8% for full sample. 

To see the full demographic cross-tabulations for this polling question, click below:

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