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. talon331

    Ummm, really. We gave up a lot after 9/11 and this American is giving up no more civil liberties because of the failure to communicate between gov't agencies. Wasn't that supposed to have been correct after 9/11? Was the Patriot Act supposed to help accomplish that. And oh yea, the newly created dept. and cabinet post of Homeland Security after 9/11 supposed to accomplish that. Although I was saddened by the Boston Bombings I was more so angry at the fact we did all of that after 9/11 and still this happens so blatantly. Seriously, who brings a pressure cooker to the marathon in a backpack. And seriously, no one saw these guys walk up and leave them and didn't think twice about it?! That I don't get and possibly never will.

    May 1, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  2. ben

    they can take all my civil liberties as long as they let me keep my guns YEEEEEHAW

    May 1, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  3. John Maroney

    You have got to be kidding. Is this real life? Am I actually seeing this?

    Anyone that thinks we should lose some civil liberties so that we may "feel more safe" is a lunatic.

    May 1, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  4. University of Minnesota student

    Most americans do not know their civil liberties. Most people would answer the question "Would you give up some of your civil liberties to fight terrorism" with an emotional bias and say "yes" especially with the cultivating effect of the media as of recently. It would be more better to ask individuals what exact civil liberties they would give up to fight terrorism and if they know what the civil liberty their giving up affords them the freedom to do.

    May 1, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  5. monbois

    After the Bush administration's blatent abuse of power it's good to see that millions of Americans have come to realize that giving up civil liberties is giving in to terrorists. They want us to live in fear, not just of them but of anything, including our own government. Searches without warrents, arrests and endless without charges... these are the characteristics of third-world dictatorships.

    The majority of Americans will never be in danger of being injured or killed in a terrorist act, though I'm sure Republicans have already begun pulling out their decade-old "Be afraid, be very afraid!" propaganda. Funny how the infamous Terror Alert rose steadily in the weeks leading up to the 2004 presidential election, and then was never heard of again – even after the Boston Marathon bombing! Propaganda, propaganda, propaganda...

    May 1, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  6. Jimmy TwoShoes

    Y am I not surprised....Before the bombing, 0% were willing to give up civil liberties. After bombing, 4 out of 10. This is quite interesting to say the least. Good job law enforcement for keeping us safe. Now all we need is to be watched in every way possible and we will be able to sleep well.....SMH

    May 1, 2013 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  7. ben

    "more people die from drugs alcohol tobacco and car wrecks...."
    YES. and that's why we regulate the hell out of those things. we should do the same for guns.

    May 1, 2013 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  8. University of Minnesota student

    Most americans do not know their civil liberties. Most people would answer the question "Would you give up some of your civil liberties to fight terrorism" with an emotional bias and say "yes" especially with the cultivating effect of the media as of recently. It would be better to ask individuals what exact civil liberties they would give up to fight terrorism and if they know what the civil liberty their giving up affords them the freedom to do.

    May 1, 2013 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  9. todd

    You are more likely to be killed by a police officer in the US than by a terrorist attack. Do not give up your civil liberties, you won't be getting them back.

    May 1, 2013 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  10. Overmann

    People here in the comments speak as if Americans haven't already given up some of their civil liberties.

    May 1, 2013 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    Actual Ben Franklin quote: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
    Note that the words "essential" and "temporary" are usually dropped by those quoting Franklin to ban all attempts to increase our collective safety at the cost of some liberty. Franklin's quote clearly applies to essential liberties, not all liberties. In addition, if the increase in safety is sufficient to materially increase our safety permanently, then Franklin left the door open for that too. We can argue about what an essential liberty is and whether a law will materially increase our permanent safety, but don't quote Franklin as if he was absolutely on the side of no reduction of liberty.

    May 1, 2013 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  12. Mark

    A poll of 606 does not represent the nation. lol. This is a propaganda based story to see who would agree with the loss of civil liberties. Story=waste of time

    May 1, 2013 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  13. dgatwood

    The shocking thing is that 40% of Americans are clueless enough to say that they *should* give up civil liberties. The thing about giving up rights to the government is this: once you give them away, you almost never get them back until that government ceases to exist. Allow those rights to be taken away, and what inevitably occurs is the rise of a totalitarian regime—Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, pre-revolution Libya, and so on. Those rights don't come back until your government gets replaced, either by your country being invaded or by violent revolution.

    Therefore, if you support taking away civil liberties, you're saying that you hate America and you want its government to be overthrown in a violent revolution as soon as possible. That's the inevitable outcome, given enough cycles of terror and backpedaling on citizens' rights.

    The fact remains that no amount of reduction in rights has ever prevented bad people from causing harm, and anyone who says otherwise is trying to manipulate you into giving them more power over you. This is why our nation must stand up and say, "No more." We must stand firm against the encroaching darkness, against the tyranny of those who would take advantage of the malevolence of terrorists to increase their power and control. We must demand that your rights remain in full force. It is only when we stand together and say, "We will not allow terrorism to change our way of life" that the terrorists can ever truly lose.

    May 1, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  14. steveabate

    Let me guess – 40% of Americans would give up someone else's rights.

    May 1, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  15. M.E.

    I live in Colorado, snit has an alarming habit of going down around here fairly frequently. Think about it, Colorado gets way more than it's fair share of mass killings. Even when faced with a relatively higher chance of being part of a mass killing, I'm not willing to give up my rights. Lunatics are like water, they'll always find cracks to flow through, it will happen no matter how many gaps you try to plug. Each gap plugged is a right taken away and I'd rather live free with some risk.

    May 1, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  16. The Real Tom Paine

    -Peoples State of Illinois

    @The Real Tom Paine

    -Peoples State of Illinois

    @rs

    The GOP turned its back on 90% of the population and know they're taking heat for doing deals with the blood-soaked NRA. Its good to see them squirm at least a little bit for their actions
    ––
    As usual, you leave out the fact that 90% you are so fond of quoting, falls to well below 50% when the gun registration and tracking data bases, part of the question is asked. That is why you have no credibility.
    ******************
    It never stopped you from parsing data, delta-minus. Go away, your mom need her compter, and your shift starts at WalMart.
    ----------
    Typical lefty, resorting to insults and name calling when you lose a discussion and the made up facts are exposed. No wonder leftists posters/schills on here have no credibility.
    *************
    Strange, I don't recall losing the discussion. On the other hand, an insult is the first thing you resort to, rather than attempting to counter with some actual facts. Ad hominem attacks are the stock-in-trade of the Right, since they cannot convince others. Attacking the conclusions of others as lacking credibility when you lack it yourself is the sign of a weak-minded ideologue, not a thinking member of society. I've come to the conclusion that the words "thought" and " conservative" are inceasingly exclusive of each other.

    May 1, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  17. tb63

    Who are these 4 in 10 and where do I register my "HELL NO" to the poll?

    May 1, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  18. Alex

    There are lies, damned lies, and than there's statistics. Previously more people supported giving up rights? well guess what happened – we gave up a lot of rights. And so now it's expected that people support giving up even more rights? Maybe most of us figured we gave up enough.
    If on a scale from 1-10 with 10 being most liberal and 1 being list, if we were a 7 before, and we're now at 4, than why would we want to go to 3 or 2 or no rights?

    May 1, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  19. Sean D

    Considering how little terrorism actually affects the average citizen in terms of % of the population, I would rather keep my civil liberties and take my chances. Hell, I'm more worried that our government will take away our civil liberties than of terrorists affecting my life one iota. These people who would give away civil liberties and freedoms for protection will find that in the end they will have neither.

    May 1, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  20. Chris

    So by a minority poll everyone is now expected to give up our rights to be safe? What are we paying our taxes for? Freedom, that what! Let's protect our borders, stop ILLEGAL ALIENS from entering, do a better job of screening legal applicants, and deport all of those here ILLEGALLY. Why should they have rights when they are already known ILLEGAL ALIENS while US taxpayers give up rights? No way JOSE!

    May 1, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  21. dd

    The people fear Obama who has already attacked the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th Amendments His most important project is to protect abortions! Assad, Putin, Mubarak, Morsi, Gaddafi, Obama .... they are all alike. They are dictators who attack the freedoms of the people. Four of them are dealing with or have been ousted by Civil War. Putin and Obama might just be on the verge. Both have a state run news media that supports their crimes, but that may not be enough.

    May 1, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  22. john

    I have a novel idea. Don't cut back on my civil liberties as a native born American. Cut back on the civil liberties of people originating from Islamic countries where terrorism is the norm and they like to blow people up. in other words, if you stop letting radicals (including ones the Russians warned us twice about) in the U.S. we wouldn't have this problem to begin with.

    May 1, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  23. us_1776

    .
    Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
    – Benjamin Franklin

    .

    May 1, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  24. MarkinFL

    My rights are worth more than the small increase in safety. A free society comes at a price. Yes to surveillance within reasonable Consti.tutional limits. No to voluntarily(or involuntarily) giving up our rights.

    May 1, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  25. bob

    This is exactly why the government is staging these attacks.

    May 1, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
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