CNN/Time Poll: Cutback civil liberties to fight terror?
May 1st, 2013
04:00 PM ET
12 months ago

CNN/Time Poll: Cutback civil liberties to fight terror?

Washington (CNN) – Although worries about terrorism have edged up following the Boston Marathon bombings, a new national poll indicates only four in ten Americans say they are willing to give up some civil liberties to fight terrorism.

And according to a CNN/Time/ORC International survey, the public is particularly concerned about the government eavesdropping on their cell phones or reading their email.

The goal of a terror attack is to terrorize, and the poll, released Wednesday, indicates concerns over becoming a victim of terrorism are up slightly in the wake of the April 15 bombings, which left three people dead and more than 260 injured. The 40% who worry that someone in their family will become a victim of terrorism is up six percentage points from a 2011 CNN poll, conducted on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

"But only a quarter are less likely to attend large public events like the Boston marathon, even though more than six in ten believe that the terrorists will always find a way to launch an attack regardless of what the government does," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

The poll suggests that public attitudes toward terrorism and civil liberties have changed dramatically since 1995, when the deadly bombing of a federal office building in Oklahoma City first ushered in a new era of anti-terrorism measures that impacted the lives of ordinary Americans. Back in 1995, 57% of the country said that they were willing to give up some civil liberties if that were necessary to curb terrorism. Today, that figure is down to 40%, and it appears that the biggest change is in attitudes toward cell phones and email.

"After 9/11, 54% of Americans favored expanded government monitoring of cell phones and email. Now, the message is 'hands off,' " adds Holland. "Only 38% favor expanding government monitoring of those forms of communication."

The survey indicates that support for government monitoring of the internet is down eight points from right after 9/11, although there is still majority support, and there is widespread and growing approval of surveillance cameras in public places, possibly a reaction to the fact that the big breaks in the Boston bombing case came from security cameras in the area of the attack.

Another finding from the survey: Six in ten report that they are more worried about the government restricting civil liberties than they are that the government will fail to enact new anti-terrorist policies.

The poll was conducted for CNN and Time magazine by ORC International, with 606 adults nationwide questioned by telephone on Tuesday April 30. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points.

– CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

soundoff (240 Responses)
  1. Civil Mike

    Sounds like 4 out of 10 people don't understand what "civil liberties" are..

    May 1, 2013 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  2. Obama-Bin-Lyin

    Liberals bring in the terrorists then want to limit our freedoms because of the damage they do.

    May 1, 2013 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  3. steve

    So, turns out that, once again, George W Bush was doing the right thing for the country.

    May 1, 2013 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  4. g

    more people die from gun violence the terrorism -but know body wants to go there

    May 1, 2013 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  5. JJ

    My answer to the question? HELL NO!

    May 1, 2013 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  6. S Peters

    Do we base legislation and laws on perception or reality? The reality is, the odds of being injured or killed in a "terrorist attack" are miniscule compared to the risk of injured or killed by a drunk driver, auto accident, cancer, etc.

    May 1, 2013 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  7. Doctorstrangeluv

    "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety" ... Ben Franklin

    May 1, 2013 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  8. card51short

    Those who give up liberty for a (false) sense of security, deserve and will get neither.

    May 1, 2013 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  9. Rudy NYC

    Poor fools don't realize just how many of their "civil liberties" are already compromised. They have no idea just how far the Bush adminstration went post 9/11. Thanks to McVeigh, credit card companies have to report transactions over $500, just like banks have long had to report transactions over $10,000.

    May 1, 2013 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  10. Gordon Laqua

    Clearly, like many other people, I support the governement curtailing other peoples civil liberties in order to fight terrorism, but I do not support them encroaching on mine, or the ones that I like.

    May 1, 2013 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  11. Boo

    Read Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World." This book is a fine example of what this country is becoming. AND THE BLAME FALLS ON OUR GOVERNMENT. If those idiots in DC WOULD STOP INTERFERING in other nations' business all of this terrorism WOULD END.

    May 1, 2013 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  12. Jimmy the Swartz

    A survey by George Gerbner, former dean of the Annenberg School at the University of Pennsylvania, found that people who watch a lot of television are more likely than occasional viewers to overestimate their chances of being a victim of violence, to believe their neighborhood is unsafe, to say fear of crime is a very serious problem, to assume that crime is rising, and to buy locks, watchdogs, and guns. And this distortion isn’t limited to television.

    May 1, 2013 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  13. Jawnathin

    CNN/Time/ORC poll: Four in 10 Americans say they're willing to give up some civil liberties to fight terrorism.
    WRONG ANSWER.
    They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

    May 1, 2013 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  14. chris

    Patrick Henry is rolling in his grave

    May 1, 2013 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  15. Josh Bender

    Ok who is taking these polls CNN, I never seen anything posted so are you making it up and is it what CNN thinks we need as a Nation..

    May 1, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  16. ashley

    You know it's facepalm time when the the number has dropped to "ONLY" 4/10 people supporting the Government in your inbox and eavesdropping on your conversations without a warrant.

    May 1, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  17. rosethornne

    Simple answer:

    NO!

    As the saying goes, if you give up liberties to gain security, you end up with neither.

    Besides, making Americans less free means the terrorists won. I don't want them to win.

    My thinking on it is, I'm going to live my life the way I darn well want, and some squidgy little cowards are not going to constrain my life. If they happen to blow me up, I'll come back and HAUNT the crap out of them.

    May 1, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  18. jason

    I'm willing to give up some civil liberties if all the gun owners are willing to give up their guns.

    May 1, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  19. CarChaser

    We already did,, Dub saw to that,,

    May 1, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  20. Liberty4All

    In other words, 6/10 Americans are not willing to trade their civil liberties for the ILLUSION of more safety. Not as high of a percentage as I'd like, but at least not all hope is completely lost... yet.

    May 1, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  21. Dave

    They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. -Franklin

    May 1, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  22. bert

    ONLY four in ten? Four cowards out of ten willing to p!ss away the freedoms our country fought long and hard for, and continually fight to maintain is disturbing.

    May 1, 2013 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  23. Tony

    There wouldn't be any terror attacks here if the US stopped its interventionist foreign policy. There are no terror attacks in New Zealand, Singapore, Denmark, Switzerland, etc.

    May 1, 2013 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  24. yaa

    what civil liberties? they are just convenient, when there is a real threat, civil liberties don't matter. Ask any country that got raided for oil or colonized for business and slave labor, also ask the Chinese

    May 1, 2013 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  25. uglyamerican

    Well those who are worried should just stay home then, and not ask me to give up any of my freedom or liberties to make them feel safer.

    May 1, 2013 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
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