CNN/Time Poll: Cutback civil liberties to fight terror?
May 1st, 2013
04:00 PM ET
2 years 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. Frank

    I'm willing to give up my right to own a gun to fight for gun control.

    May 1, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  2. ohreally

    I guess four out of ten are not very smart. And on a side note, can we stop with the liberty quote. I'm sure everyone has heard it or read it and it's getting old. Find some new material.

    May 1, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  3. yippeeskip

    That just means the terrorists have won...

    May 1, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  4. Go Data

    Lol.. US is edging closer to a Police State each and every day.. Wont be long now, till the Fema Camps are setup, and peeps will be heading to them in Droves! Look at the stats in the US 10,728 deaths by hand guns last year, where as every other country polled or supplied stats where around 50 – 60... Wait till all the Militia types come out of the wood work in droves, forming a peoples army... They will fight for there rights, then we will have the US soldiers pitted against it's citizens... So glad I live in Canada.. where most people can and do leave there doors open, where as the states everyone has Bars on there windows... look at the us, military spending... Billions! Who is going to be there next target, North Korea, Iran, Syria, where you will attempt to set up your morals and ideas of how they should govern...

    May 1, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  5. Crazy Horse

    Funny how we are so willing to fight for civil liberties but not free markets when the two are practically the same thing.

    May 1, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  6. HeyHey

    I'm not willing to give up one civil right. Go kill them before they kill us...

    May 1, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  7. michael

    Its the governments way of taking your freedoms,, it started with King George Bush,, and now they want to take away even more! What a bunch of scared sheep this country it turning into!!
    FEAR, is the tool that, CONTROLS the masses!! READ,,, the book 1984! DO NOT LET THEM TAKE MORE THEN what they HAVE ALREADY!! Or soon you will have NO freedoms!!

    May 1, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  8. Hamburger Jones

    "so we can stop the 70 year old grandmother for a random search. Please explain how in the world that makes any sense"

    What are you, Honey Boo Boo? Any ten-year-old knows there are plenty of blonde, Caucasian Muslims, not to mention all any swarthy person needs is a Mexican accent to blend into an airport crowd. Also, plenty of crazy people get on airplanes who are not Muslims, but still disturbed. Google "Dr. Patrick G. Henry" and be amazed. He is not in jail or anything and could probably get on an airplane if he wanted to.

    May 1, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  9. Jake Wilkinson

    "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."
    – Benjamin Franklin

    May 1, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  10. Etienne C

    USA should rollback to 1920' isolationists policies, deny all immigration, tourism,etc .. Deny any "aliens" the right to set foot on US soil.. After that, you purge yourself with a good dose of McCarthy laxative 21st Century updated formula..

    May 1, 2013 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  11. Ed

    The goal of terrorism is not to terrorize. It is to cause the government to over react by cracking down on the population. Then there is another act followed by more crack downs. More loss of liberty. The cycle continues until the government becomes so repressive that the people rebel either overthrowing the government or forcing the government to concede to the terrorist demands. A good example was the bombing in Paris in October of 1961 which was intended to forced the French to leave Algeria. Another would be the bombings in the 60's and 70's in the US by the Weather Underground for the purpose of opposing the Vietnam War.

    May 1, 2013 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790)

    May 1, 2013 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  13. al

    That number will get lower when the the shock of the boston incident is further behind us.

    May 1, 2013 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  14. annhonolulu

    I agree with Alex very well stated.

    May 1, 2013 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  15. Anthony

    @ Irish Seanachie from Maine
    nice job quoting Benjamin Franklin.

    May 1, 2013 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  16. Alex

    This is propaganda to take away our rights. Soon we will not be able to speak bad about our president because we will be considered "Terrorists". THE UNITED STATES WILL BECOME A COUNTRY LIKE SYRIA, WHICH KILLS "TERRORISTS" WHO DISLIKE THE GOVERNMENT. including everyday people like You and me. This is to be pitied. NEVER GIVE UP YOUR FREEDOM PEOPLE

    May 1, 2013 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  17. Hamburger Jones

    "Should the story read, "6 out of 10 OPPOSE"? Nah.............that would only make sense. Hidden agenda."

    Actually, I think most of us find it more alarming that 4 of 10 would cave in, Most people resist having their stuff taken away.

    May 1, 2013 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  18. eric

    Hah, they say "only" 4 in 10 as if that's a good thing. Four in ten feeble, cowering simps is what I call that. Where are the G-D American brass balls?

    Really, that number should be ZERO IN TEN. Zero in ten people should be willing to give up *any* civil liberties in an effort to combat terrorism or any other "-ism du jour".

    May 1, 2013 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  19. Matt from CT

    CNN is polling again? BWHAHAHAHAH

    May 1, 2013 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  20. unknown

    What do all you folks have to hide?? If it helps weed out the worms in our society what's wrong with that?

    May 1, 2013 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  21. Robert

    The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

    May 1, 2013 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  22. "C"

    I, for one, will NEVER give up liberty for the unrealistic notion of safety. The fact that four out of ten americans would breaks my heart. Those I pity most are our brave slodiers and veterans. Their effort and sacrifices were officially in vain. No longer is this a country worth fighting or dying for. I guess this once great nation really is doomed......

    May 1, 2013 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  23. Dom

    4 out of 10 Americans disgust me

    May 1, 2013 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  24. Bhaalgorn

    by civil liberties they mean the first and second amendment right?

    no right to free speech? terrorists dont get to spread their propoganda
    no freedom of religion? terrorists dont get to target us because of our religions.
    no right to protest? terrorists dont have large groups to target.
    no right to bear arms? terrorists cant buy guns (not that they buy them legally anyway)

    its so easy to justify these infringements on a stupid populace. apparently 40% of us ARE that stupid.

    May 1, 2013 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  25. mrinthemix

    What about reducing GUN VIOLENCE?!

    May 1, 2013 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
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