According to the latest Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll, 56 percent of Americans believe the NSA's tracking of telephone records of Americans is "acceptable," while the public is more evenly divided on monitoring email and other online activities.

The poll shows that 41 percent say such telephone monitoring is unacceptable.

"Currently 62 percent say it is more important for the federal government to investigate possible terrorist threats, even if that intrudes on personal privacy," Pew reported. "Just 34 percent say it is more important for the government not to intrude on personal privacy, even if that limits its ability to investigate possible terrorist threats."

Republicans, Democrats and independents stand largely united on investigating terrorist threats and privacy, with 69 percent of Democrats, 62 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of independents saying investigating should take precedence even at the expense of personal privacy.

On the issue of Internet monitoring, 45 percent say the government should be able to "monitor everyone's email and other online activities if officials say this might prevent future terrorist attacks," while 52 percent say the government should not be able to do this.