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Public Sides With FBI in its Legal Flight Against Apple

February 23, 2016, 12:56 AM UTC
The DOJ logo is pictured on a wall after a news conference in New York
The Department of Justice (DOJ) logo is pictured on a wall after a news conference to discuss alleged fraud by Russian Diplomats in New York December 5, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW) - RTX1657T
Photograph by Carlo Allegri — Reuters

More Americans side with the Department of Justice than Apple in a legal tussle between the two over a disputed iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters in December.

The Pew Research Center released a survey on Monday that said 51% of polled respondents believe Apple should help the FBI create technology that would let the bureau more easily retrieve data from the locked iPhone of shooter Syed Farook. Meanwhile, 38% of the respondents disagreed that Apple (AAPL) should aid the FBI while 11% had no opinion.

The survey, which polled 1,002 U.S. adults, also highlighted the fact that the DOJ and Apple legal battle has become a hot topic in the public sphere, with 75% of respondents saying they have heard a lot about it since the news came out last week.

Apple has claimed that helping the FBI create software to help retrieve data from Farook’s iPhone sets a bad precedent that could ultimately make user information on its devices more vulnerable to hackers.

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On Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook sent an email to employees that reiterated his belief that the company should not comply with a court order to help the FBI. Cook wrote that the government should drop the legal request and instead “form a commission or other panel of experts on intelligence, technology, and civil liberties, to discuss the implications for law enforcement, national security, privacy, and personal freedom.”

Meanwhile, FBI Director James Comey said in a statement the government’s request for Apple’s help to crack the locked iPhone “isn’t about trying to set a precedent or send any kind of message.”

“We don’t want to break anyone’s encryption or set a master key loose on the land,” Comey said. “I hope thoughtful people will take the time to understand that.”

As of Monday, U.S. citizens (at least those polled by Pew) seem more persuaded by the FBI’s rationale to compel Apple to build custom iPhone software.

For more on Apple and the FBI, check out our Fortune video:

Unlike many sensitive topics, public opinion about the Apple-FBI fight does not break along political party lines. Fifty six percent of Republicans and 55% of Democrats both sided with the government on the matter.

The survey also showed that smartphone owners were more likely to side with Apple, and that most people 65 and older side with the government.