While an earlier public poll showed the majority of the public siding with the FBI in the dispute over whether Apple should be forced to help the government break into an iPhone, the public mood appears to be shifting. A WSJ/NBC poll shows that, overall, American voters are now almost evenly split on the issue.

Neither the WSJ nor NBC has yet released the full poll – only the results relating to the Republican primary race – but CNET has reported the numbers.

Overall, American voters are evenly divided over whether Apple should cooperate with FBI efforts to crack open a terrorist’s iPhone.

47 percent said they feared the government wouldn’t go far enough in protecting national security, while 44 percent feared it would intrude too far into citizens’ privacy.

As you’d expect, there was a significant difference in views among registered Republicans and Democrats …

While the wording of the poll appears to stop short of specifically naming Apple and the FBI, it seems likely that the majority of those questioned would provide the same response to both the general question and the case in hand.

Republicans favored the government’s position 57% to 37%, while Democrats sided with Apple 50% to 40%. Strongest support for Apple was among independent voters, who back Apple by a 2-to-1 ratio, at 58% to 28%.

An earlier poll of 9to5Mac readers shows overwhelming support for Apple’s stand.

It will be interesting to see how public opinion responds to the increasingly strident war of words between the two sides.

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