There were two polls released this week and they show different results! Oh yes my friends, “the game is afoot”. These findings reflect a divisive debate between Apple and the U.S. government over the iPhone 5c that belonged to one of the San Bernardino attackers.
Fifty-one percent of respondents to a Pew Research Center poll, released Monday, said Apple should unlock the iPhone in order to help the FBI. Thirty-eight percent said Apple should not and 11% had no opinion. The telephone survey of 1,002 adults conducted February 18-21 had a margin of error of plus-minus 3.7%. (Methodology here.)
The Pew report leads one to believe that a majority of the public – or close to it – wants Apple to unlock the phone – they agree with the FBI’s position.
But wait, according to the results of a national online poll released Wednesday by Reuters/Ipsos, forty-six percent said they agreed with Apple’s position, thirty-five percent said they disagreed, and 20% had no opinion. The poll of 1,576 adults was conducted February 19-23, had a margin of error of 3.2%. (Methodology here.)
There was one notable difference between the two polls: wording of the question posed to the respondents.
Pew Research Center asked:
As you may know, [the FBI has said that accessing the iPhone is an important part of their ongoing investigation into the San Bernardino attacks] while [Apple has said that unlocking the iPhone could compromise the security of other users’ information] do you think Apple?
Should unlock the iPhone
Should NOT unlock the iPhone
The Reuters/Ipsos poll asked:
Apple is opposing a court order to unlock a smart phone that was used by one of the shooters in the San Bernardino attack. Apple is concerned that if it helps the FBI this time, it will be forced to help the government in future cases that may not be linked to national security, opening the door for hackers and potential future data breaches for smartphone users. Do you agree or disagree with Apple’s decision to oppose the court order?
The way in which a poll question is phrased is known to have a significant effect on polling results (similar to “leading the witness”). The Pew question, which mentioned what the FBI wants and provided less information about Apple’s concerns, could have played a role in how respondents answered that question.
Responses to both polls differed broadly by age group and political affiliation.
The password on the phone in question, was accidentally reset soon after the government took possession of it, rendering its information inaccessible. An auto-erase feature is enabled on iPhones if the password is incorrectly entered 10 times. Apple says the FBI wants the ability to unlock the phone using multiple password attempts – a method known as brute-forcing. And last week, a judge ordered Apple to cooperate with the FBI so they could gain access to Farook’s device.
James Comey, the FBI chief, wrote this week the litigation against Apple “is about victims and justice.” He appeared to have support from the CIA.
Apple’s lawyers, who are expected to file the company’s formal response to the judge’s order by Friday, are reportedly considering using its First Amendment rights to decline cooperating with the FBI.
Read Article (Krishnadev Calamur | theatlantic.com | 02/24/2016)
It should be noted that public opinion should have no bearing on this case. But it does provide interesting information for the curious. Also, poll questions should be clear, brief, complete and not (leading) in any way. Pew should know better.
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