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. us_1776

    .
    I Will Give Up NO Rights to Deal With Terrorism.

    And I Want ALL of My Stolen Rights Returned Immediately.

    .

    May 1, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  2. JC

    Its a sad day when 1 out of 10 is willing to give up liberty for security let alone 4. America has become a bunch of comfortable sheep. Of course CNN will spin it as bad that the majority don't want to see America turn into the UK of "V". I am quite sure our forefathers are rolling in their graves at what this great Republic has become.

    May 1, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  3. Reckless

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

    May 1, 2013 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  4. Julie

    YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! I can't even believe this article because I have more faith in my fellow Americans than this..

    May 1, 2013 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  5. Tychi

    I agree with a few commenters that some civil liberties after 9/11 were removed or curtailed. We do not need to go further damaging our liberties. Slippery slope.

    May 1, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  6. steveflash7

    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety"
    Benjamin Franklin

    May 1, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  7. Superneal

    Those who give up civil liberties for security deserve neither.

    May 1, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  8. Lemon

    "Only 4 out of 10"? That's 4 too many. Disturbing.

    May 1, 2013 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  9. steveflash7

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

    May 1, 2013 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  10. bruce t

    100% SAFE...will be written on my tombstone.

    May 1, 2013 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  11. us_1776

    .
    The rightwing BUNKERHEADS would let ALL their rights be stolen as they cower in fear in their little bunkers.

    But, they'd have their little guns.

    Clue: The terrorists are not the enemy. Those who would take your rights away for ANY reason are the enemy.

    .

    .

    May 1, 2013 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  12. Reckless

    Love your Enemies, for they tell you your Faults.

    May 1, 2013 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  13. Saboth

    The amount of freedom and liberties we've lost since 9/11 is staggering. Most Americans are completely ignorant of the loss, or do not care. Our government has gained more power and scope in the past 12 years than probably the past 200+ years combined.

    May 1, 2013 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  14. ME

    The Patriot Act. We've already lost our civil liberties.

    May 1, 2013 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  15. Amadea

    Here we go ... the slippery slope is becoming more slippery every day.

    May 1, 2013 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  16. Aces Full, Mike

    100% of the 40% willing to give up civil liberties are leftists.

    May 1, 2013 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  17. Reckless

    All mankind were created equal.

    The Founders knew that in these three ways, all mankind are theoretically treated as:

    Equal before God.
    Equal before the law.
    Equal in their rights.

    May 1, 2013 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  18. The Real Tom Paine

    Freedom, according to David Hackett Fisher, is a condition people are born into that requires a level of meaningful participation from its members. Liberties are granted, and can be taken away ( taken from the Latin word liberatus). Our society is the only place where these 2 concepts were combined. The right to bear arms is a liberty that is taken away from those who demonstrate they cannot bear the repsonsibility, and based upon the statements from many hre, most people do not deserve it. The Founders understood the definitions of liberty and freedom very well, and that it was not a license to do as one pleased, but a sense of responsibility to society as a whole. They never envisioned a nation like ours, with so many diverse viewpoints, but they did not forget that our liberties can be granted by a free society, and taken away when the free society it threatened. We are threatened by our own worst nature: our tendency to violence and our willingness to tolerate it. How long will we tolerate it?

    May 1, 2013 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  19. BHOLuver123

    Really need need to get rid of the 1st and 2nd amendments. Time for people to quit being offensive and killing with guns.

    May 1, 2013 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  20. Knucklehead

    Do that and they win. Game over.

    May 1, 2013 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  21. Pablo

    I can assure you, that even though the sentiment now is to give up no move liberties to fight terrorism, the more violence we experience. the more the sentiment will change. We are living in a different world now that in the past. America's individual freedoms will make it more of a target for terrorist as time goes by. They have access to every expanding selection of arms and explosives. There are Americans that vigorously oppose have the trunk of their car searched without a warrant. I would be willing to let them search mine (since I have nothing to hide) if it helps authorities prevent a heinous act or find the perpetrators. We are all going to have to give a little to protect the innocent from acts of terror. It's sad but it's true.

    May 1, 2013 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  22. chester

    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." – Benjamin Franklin

    May 1, 2013 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  23. StarshipTrooper

    Anyone willing to do this is an enabler of the terrorists and should leave this nation.

    May 1, 2013 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  24. dso

    At that level they would have to be restricted to only responding to Terrorist activity's viewed in this Surveillance ,

    Putting them in for one thing and using them for other things would not fly in my book.

    May 1, 2013 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  25. Bob Saget

    So what we've learned from this poll is about 40% of Americans need to be deported as traitors immediately.

    May 1, 2013 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
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