A poll conducted by Monmouth University shows that a majority of Americans support the use of unmanned aircraft systems for search and rescue and border patrol. The poll found that 83% of Americans support UAS use for search and rescue and 62% support the use of the technology for patrolling our nation’s border.
The poll also found, however, that the public is not overwhelmingly confident 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 FAA 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 10 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 76% of those polled 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 1,012 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.