The many-faced Apple vs FBI poll results

The well-respected Pew Research Center put a poll in the field from Feb 18-21 asking this question:

In response to court order tied to ongoing FBI investigation of San Bernardino attack, Apple…

The then followed up with these choices:

  • Should unlock iPhone
  • Should not unlock iPhone
  • Don’t know

I’ve got a real issue with this poll. There is no context here. The question is simplistic and makes no mention of precedence, privacy, or encryption. On the surface, the question gives the impression that the FBI has simply asked Apple to enter the code to unlock the phone. Which, of course, is an incredible oversimplification.

The poll questioned 1,002 adults. The results? 51% felt Apple should unlock the iPhone.

Take a look at this MarketWatch poll. Certainly not as scientific as a Pew Research poll, but the choices are more informative:

Should Apple comply with a U.S. court order that it unlock the San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone?

  • Yes, it’s a justified request under the circumstances.
  • No, Tim Cook should fight to protect our privacy.
  • Hmm, I’m not sure this is the big deal it’s made out to be.

More importantly, the poll is embedded in a short discussion of the matter with links to more detailed discussion. And even more importantly, the numbers showed 63% favorable to Apple with more than 6,000 responses. Clearly not as scientific, but a much larger sample size.

Moving on, here’s another poll, this one released this morning, from Reuters/Ipsos. The sample size of this poll was 1,500 adults. Results were 46% agree with Apple’s decision, 35% disagree. The results were split largely along party lines, emphasizing the relevance and importance of the upcoming Supreme Court appointment and that currently vacant seat.

Bottom line, don’t believe headlines like this one: Apple losing to feds in court of public opinion.

Do what Tim Cook does and make up your own mind.