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. Stan

    this is precisely what they want – to terrorize and change our way of life – it's win-win for them. Instead of taking more of our liberties away, eliminate their federal aid, no college scholarships – then they wouldn't be here in the first place.

    May 1, 2013 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  2. derek Girdhani

    One word Answer – "NO"

    May 1, 2013 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  3. Jordan

    Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

    May 1, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  4. FreeMax

    The pattern is clear. We are losing freedom a little at a time. Much like the frog in a pot of water that is heated gradually enough that the frog does not notice until it is too late to jump to safety, we in this country are slowly being cooked as one liberty after another is slowly eroded. I hope we as a people will cry "Enough" to our government before we are living in a police or worse state.

    May 1, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  5. Mike Franklin

    Be careful what you say here. This board is censored and your speech is not free.

    May 1, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  6. Lori

    Nobody asked me. I would not give up anymore liberties and I do not like cameras everywhere.

    May 1, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  7. Chris

    Here's an idea! Let's take away the civil liberties of those who are NOT US CITIZENS! These muslim terrorists, illegal aliens from Mexico and other S American countries, boat people from Haiti and Cuba, all of them should be willing to give up civil rights here in the US. A better idea? How about let's keep them out from the beginning! Now that sounds much safer. US Citizens should not have to give up rights nor the right to bear arms while our government fishtales around all of these terrorists and illegal aliens swarming our nation.

    May 1, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  8. Bubba Ray

    "And those 4 in 10 are likely Obama voters."

    They are more likely conservatives. Conservatives talk big about liberty and freedom when it comes to guns but when it comes to controlling anything they don't agree with, they are all for it.

    May 1, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  9. Shelia

    For the bozo who said the four voted for Obama, it was the Bush administration that initiated the Patriot Act, and they would have gone a lot harsher until the realized the American people would not stand for it. Vendors uncovered one bomber, an observant citizen stopped another one. All Americans need to be vigilant. Whenever, I see a bag by itself, I call a security officer in my building. People watched these guys place their book bags down and walk away. The brothers took advantage that people would be too caught up in the moment to notice. This is not going to be restricted to NY or New Year's. We all need to be responsible.

    May 1, 2013 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  10. Booger

    I prefer to not do that

    May 1, 2013 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  11. j

    You should never give up any of your civil liberties for the idea of safety.

    May 1, 2013 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  12. whatever

    I am willing to give up liberties to fight terrorism domestically but not abroad. Im sick of money going to Iraq Afghanistan ETC. and im sick of being at war sll over the world... We are willing to spend money giving aid to terrorist countries, but not willing to give aid to our own poor and elderly by stripping SS, medicare/medicaid. Sowrong

    May 1, 2013 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    Sure. They "cut back" our civil liberties to fight terror...but can't be bothered to pursue millions of aliens that just overstay...for years... on visas. If our country was serious about fighting terrorism, we would get serious about the millions of people that just flood into our country unchecked. Don't "cut back" our civil liberties. Cut back on the liberties, civil or otherwise, of millions of aliens and strangers in the country!

    May 1, 2013 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  14. j

    I love these so called "polls" that have 0% validity and the fact they are done by CNN makes it even less believable.

    May 1, 2013 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  15. Mike Land

    Vilhelm Jefferson Clinton said he was not willing to reduce civil liberties when the NSA and FBI asked for permission to put listening devices into motel rooms used by Saudi Nationals near the Boston airport. Clinton said the Saudi government would take offense to such actions if they discovered the devices. So the 9/11 plans were never verified before it happened. But they did know there were plans in the works Zacarias Moussaoui, a student at the University of Oklahoma had washed out of flight school. He was about to leave and walked into the Bizzel memorial Library and went to the third floor reference desk. He used a reference computer to send an email to Clinton's public white house account. He did route it through an anonymizer but it was traced back to the reference desk at OU. His email specifically stated that if the Republicans won the 2000 election, they would hijack several airline jets and fly them into targets in New York City and Washington D.C. Clinton acknowledged the email did occur but he was NOT willing to sacrifice the civil liberties of US citizens based on that single email. Clinton said it was not his fault people flew those airliners into the buildings and not his fault his failure to give surveillance warrants to the NSA caused a lapse in intelligence. He said the liberties of the nation were always paramount to him. What is the horrible poetic irony of his actions, or lack thereof? The US lost more civil liberties than 224 years of existence just because Clinton wanted to play it safe and give the enemies of the US more liberties than US citizens currently had. End result, we lost more liberties than in 224 years of the US' existence as a nation. Good going Clinton, thanks for loving us so much.

    May 1, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  16. steve505

    "If we restrict liberty to attain security, we will lose them both." – Benjamin Franklin

    Also, keep in mind that no matter how much terrorism propaganda and fear the government tries to shove down our throats, the fact still remains that we are more likely to die from a lightning strike than from terrorism.

    Go ahead, America...... give up your civil liberties in hopes of becoming more "safe". You'll regret it deeply in the end.

    May 1, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  17. sly

    We know people won't give up their liberties to fight terrorism: Gun Control laws didn't pass. End of discussion. Americans get realk horrified when 3 whole people die in Boston, but don't seem too horrified at 37 gun murder victims of terrorists each day.

    Ho hum .... 37 here, 20 there, who cares right?

    May 1, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  18. DonTN

    No one I know of is willing to trade a moment of security for most freedoms. Why does the USA Govt hate our freedoms. We need to examine our own govt and if d out what they are doing g to make foreigners want to harm us and work from there. We certainly need to find out why our govt wants to restrict our freedoms so much. Wake up.

    May 1, 2013 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  19. George Dixon

    Cut back civil liberties to fight terror?

    It would be far more effective to simply banish Liberal Political Correctness from the realm of Law Enforcement and Intelligence Agencies.

    Politically Correct FBI questioning of the older bomber got Politically Correct replies and off they went.....

    May 1, 2013 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  20. syzito

    A lot of the so-called terrorism may be government sponsored in order to increase their security measures and control of its citizens.

    May 1, 2013 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  21. Lisa

    We were willing to die for freedom once upon a time, when this country was founded. Yes the government should do their best to keep us safe, as safe as they can, but not at the expense of our rights. Freedom from government spying!!

    @Jordan – always cite your quotes. Ben Franklin.

    May 1, 2013 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  22. chet

    May I see your papers may be the new term coming from Cops soon! Then they will say: "oh, I am sorry there seems to be a problem, come with me!"

    May 1, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  23. Namejames

    How sick. These Americans are in comas watching television. Wow give up civil liberties what a bunch of goons they don't even know ther alive

    May 1, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  24. CJ

    No matter how much you infringe on people's civil liberties, terrorists will find a way around all the safety measures and still kill people. The only people that this will affect are your average citizen whose government now knows everything they do.

    May 1, 2013 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  25. Dave

    No way will I give up any of my liberties!

    May 1, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
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