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Poll: Apple Should Help FBI Unlock Terrorism Suspect's iPhone

When it comes to the dispute over San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook's iPhone, new findings show that public support is on the side of the Justice Department.

Data from the Pew Research Center show that the majority of Americans — 51 percent — think Apple should cooperate with a federal court order. Another 38 percent say Apple should not help; 11 percent say that they don't know.

But before we go any further, take note of an important technicality: Pew asked people whether Apple should unlock the iPhone, which is not actually what the court requested. Rather, the court asked Apple to help the FBI bypass an auto-erase function that would be triggered after 10 incorrect password attempts. Pew Senior Researcher Alec Tyson defended the poll's wording, telling NPR that "this reflects our best judgment about the clearest way to ask the question."

Among Americans who support Apple's decision, the greatest percentage — 43 percent — are between age 18 and 29. Among those age 65 and up, only 27 percent think Apple shouldn't comply with the order.

Fifty-six percent of Republicans and 55 percent of Democrats think that Apple should help unlock the iPhone. But there's a wider split among independents. The majority of independents who lean Democratic, 55 percent, support Apple's stance. But 58 percent of independents who lean Republican think the company should comply.

A plurality, 39 percent, said they had heard a lot about the court order, 36 percent said they had heard a little and 24 percent said they hadn't heard about it at all.

Of Americans polled who own an iPhone, 47 percent said Apple should help the government and 43 percent said they agree with the company's decision to disobey the order.

Naomi LaChance is a business news intern at NPR.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

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