Two polls; two very different results.
The 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 percent had no opinion.
The telephone survey of 1,002 adults conducted February 18 to 21 had a margin of error of plus-minus 3.7 percentage points. (Methodology here.)
So, it would seem a majority of the public—or close to it—wants Apple to unlock the phone.
Not so fast, according to the results of a national online poll released Wednesday by Reuters/Ipsos. According to that poll, 46 percent said they agreed with Apple’s position, 35 percent said they disagreed, and 20 percent said they did not know. The poll of 1,576 adults, conducted February 19-23, had a margin of error of 3.2 percent. (Methodology here.)
It’s worth pointing out here the two polls differed significantly in one notable manner: the question posed to respondents.
Pew’s pollsters asked:
As you may know, RANDOMIZE: [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 [READ; RANDOMIZE]?
Should unlock the iPhone
Should NOT unlock the iPhone
The Reuters/Ipsos poll, on the other hand, 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. 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.