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

    Let the brainwashing begin... The only terror we have to fear is the terror found in a govt. gone awry. # People # Freedom # Speech

    May 1, 2013 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  2. Alex

    Terrorists can only kill people and destroy buildings. It takes Congress, the Presidents and the Courts to take away Americans rights. To wit, The PATRIOTUSA act

    May 1, 2013 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  3. Reckless

    A free people should be governed by law and not by the whims of men.

    "The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all the states of created beings, capable of laws, where there is no law there is no freedom. For liberty is to be free from restraint and violence of others, which cannot be where there is no law." – John Locke

    May 1, 2013 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  4. George Gray

    Civil liberties aren't given to you by the gov't. Your civil liberties aren't completely specified in books. Indeed, you hear your civil liberties in your favorite song. The idea that the gov't has anything to do with your rights is frivolous. You have to fight for your rights. You can't count on the neighbors or their agents for anything.

    May 1, 2013 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  5. MaidenMN

    I feel more terrorized by my own overly-invasive government than I do any foreign or domestic nut.

    May 1, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  6. Ben Franklin

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

    May 1, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  7. Pablo

    How about cutting back the civil liberties of illegal aliens or immigrants from Islamic countries who have a history of supporting terrorism. Or, are we going to remain stupid. We trained the pilots of the 9/11 attack and we supported the families of the Boston marathon attackers. We have got to wake up.

    May 1, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  8. Mike D

    How about instead of removing the civil liberties of our nations citizens we stop letting all these people in from cultures and countries that despise our country?

    May 1, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  9. truthbringsfreedom

    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 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    "Giving up our civil liberties to fight terrorism is giving into terrorism."

    Prove it wrong.

    May 1, 2013 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  11. ellid

    ABSOLUTELY NOT. We need to REPEAL the PATRIOT Act as soon as possible and start acting like a free people instead of terrified little mice.

    May 1, 2013 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  12. yonyo

    Ben Franklin would be disappointed in us. And those 40% apparantly don't realize that a government that can hold you indefinitely, force you to sign a confession, confiscate your property, and shoot you for protesting any of that MAY in fact be a problem.

    May 1, 2013 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  13. nunya

    Those of you offering to trade liberties for gun rights have an extremely odd interpretation of what liberties are.
    Not a right winger, but neither am I left.
    Violence and hate are increasing because everyone wants to impose their beliefs and restrictions against those who don't agree with them. Leave each other alone and stop being so paranoid.

    This applies to both 'ideologies'. Better yet, educate yourself and realize that you don't have to be enslaved by either.

    May 1, 2013 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  14. Jake

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

    May 1, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  15. Diego Alantra

    Don't give up your civil liberties. Remember what Valerie said in V for Vendetta.

    "An inch. It's small and it's fragile and it's the only thing in the world worth having. We must never lose it, or sell it, or give it away. We must never let them take it from us."

    May 1, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  16. therealtru

    haha! what civil liberties

    May 1, 2013 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    First they came for the communists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

    Then they came for the socialists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

    Then they came for the Catholics,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Catholic.

    Then they came for me,
    and there was no one left to speak for me.

    - attributed to pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the sloth of German intellectuals following the Nazis' rise to power and the subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group.

    May 1, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  18. dick tater

    Abolish the homeland security police state bureaucracy. Too many surveillance cameras watching us. Screen immigrants better.

    May 1, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  19. doorknob

    Well first of all the use of cameras is a huge step in the direction of Big Brother watching you.. I do know that it has value but the question is "Who is watching the watchers?" Now I know that we all think that they who are watching is just looking for the bad guys doing something that is easy to see but what happens if they meaning the watchers are looking for something totally different and the rules changed and no one bothered to tell the people who are being watched. All you have to do is read the book "1984" and you get the drift.. Reality shows are one and the same.. Someone comes in and watches your every move, and you become used to it so that it does not mean nothing after while. It is a very slippery slope and people need to realize what the stakes are in all of this.. This is the part where all of us need to know what civil liberities are being taken away, even the ones that might help in the long run.. It is just like buyer beware..
    w

    May 1, 2013 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  20. Mike Franklin

    Do you believe that?
    Do you think that 40 percent of Americans are ready to surrender important freedoms for a little perceived safety?

    I don't. Not for a single second. But... that's the whole point. Polls are commissioned NOT to reveal what people think, but to design their opinions to fit a certain end. In this case, it is to convince the population that most of their fellow Americans are tossing in the towel on liberty. They'd rather be questionably safe than undeniably free,.

    Is that you?

    May 1, 2013 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  21. Namo

    Essential Liberties the Ben Franklin described are outlined in the Bill of Rights which are recognized as God given or secularly natural. Essential liberties are exactly what are under attack.

    May 1, 2013 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  22. Pablo695

    !"a new national poll indicates only four in ten Americans say they are willing to give up some civil liberties to fight terrorism."

    For the four losers – terrorism (and government propaganda) has already defeated you!!
    For the six winners – Continue to be Strong!!

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

    May 1, 2013 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  23. Truth

    There should be HD Digital Surveillance Cameras on EVERY street corner, street light, highway sign; and inside EVERY public space namely every inch of parks, theaters, stadiums, public transportation, and building lobbies, so evil people who commit violent acts of crime/terror can't escape because the cameras will be used to follow and track them down and there crimes will also be caught on cameras so they can't deny them.

    May 1, 2013 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  24. Buckeye Jim

    If the terrorists can can get the government to be totalitarian, they, the terorists, have won.

    May 1, 2013 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  25. bspurloc

    u mean pass the PATRIOT ACT? uh.... what is this poll done by the nra or something?

    May 1, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
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