In the middle of the huge national debate about domestic drone use, public opinion SHOULD be considered in determining public policy. With many beneficial domestic applications of unmanned aerial systems (UASs) on the horizon in the future, a recent poll shows that Americans support domestic use of UAS with some limitations. Currently The Department of Homeland Security has been using UASs to patrol the nation’s borders and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been revising rules to widen the use of UASs for other domestic commercial applications.
Monmouth University in West Long Branch NJ conducted a poll by telephone, contacting 1708 adults between June 4th and 6th in 2012. This sample has a margin of error of + 2.4% and was conducted from the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, New Jersey. You can read the official release here.
How informed are we nationally?
While personally I find the results encouraging overall, there was a portion of the poll that I did find disturbing. Knowing that information and understanding are essential in forming opinion, and a well informed population provides a more meaningful response on an issue, I’m concerned that 44% of Americans have heard little to nothing about U.S. Military use of UASs. From the survey:
A majority of Americans have heard either a great deal (27%) or some (29%) news about the use of unmanned surveillance drones by the U.S. Military. Another 22% have heard only a little and 22% have heard nothing at all.
This implies to me that the largest user of UASs that Americans should know about hasn’t had information reach 45% of Americans to a significant extent. I wonder how this compares to other social issues? Irregardless, how well would they be informed about the domestic use or the issues concerning domestic use? Interestingly, the release about the poll mentions this little snippet.
The poll found that pre-existing knowledge about military drones did not substantially affect support for domestic drone uses or potential concern about privacy issues.
Using the poll’s national sampling, opinions on four potential uses of UASs by U.S. law enforcement and emergency responders gained the support of an overwhelming majority of Americans.
- Search and rescue missions 80% approval.
- Track down runaway criminals 67% approval.
- Control illegal immigration on the nation’s border 64% approval.
- Routine police activity approval (and in fact a large majority of 67% oppose this idea).
One factor that continues to be associated with civil UAS use is concern about privacy. Poll respondents expressed concerns about privacy issues if law enforcement started using UASs with surveillance cameras in a more routine use. Specifically:
- Very concerned 42%
- Somewhat concerned 22%
- A little concerned 16%
- Not concerned at all 15%
The take home message of this poll was summarized by Patrick Murray, director of the New Jersey-based Monmouth University Polling Institute, in the release of the poll.
“Americans clearly support using drone technology in special circumstances, but they are a bit leery of more routine use by local law enforcement agencies,”
I agree with his conclusions.
This poll shows support for civil applications to be sure but what about commercial applications? How do commercial applications sit in American public opinion? I’m looking for more data on this and hopefully I can present this as I uncover it.
What do you think about the survey finding? Where are you on the the key points? Leave your feedback here or drop me an email at Chris@ this blog’s url and let me know. Finally (and most importantly) sign up for my mailing list to keep in contact with me and the projects I’m pursuing. I promise no spam, just periodic updates on the projects I’m working on and topics related to them.