November 23rd, 2010
12:53 PM ET
12 years ago

Americans united on scanners, divided on pat-downs, profiling

(CNN) - When it comes to new airport security screening for passengers, Americans agree that full-body scanners are okay, but split over when additional measures cross the line, according to two new polls.

A majority of Americans surveyed in two new polls released this week support the Transportation Security Administration's use of full-body x-ray machines that use new technology to highlight outlines of the human body in an effort to detect hidden weapons.

According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, roughly two-thirds of Americans support full-body x-ray machines, known as Advanced Imaging Technology, but less than half agree that enhanced searches are justified.

When asked whether privacy or the ability to investigate possible terror threats is more important, almost 7 in 10 say that combating terrorism is more important than protecting personal privacy, but 50 percent say the enhanced pat-downs go too far. Forty-eight percent say the more thorough pat-down is justified, indicating that Americans are split on how much personal privacy they are willing to compromise.

The Washington Post-ABC poll echoes findings released by CBS News last week. In the CBS poll conducted during the second week of November, 81 percent of Americans agreed that airports should use full-body x-ray machines.

The TSA website lists 385 "imaging technology units" at 68 airports across the country. In an effort to refute the myth that complaints about pat-downs are extremely high, a blog hosted by TSA responds that "Only a small percentage of the traveling public receives a pat down as they travel through the security checkpoint. Approximately 2 million people fly in the United States every day. The number of complaints is extremely low."

The CBS poll did not ask about enhanced pat-downs, but it did query respondents about whether it is justified to subject people of certain racial or ethnic groups to additional security checks at airport checkpoints. Over half the nation said that ethnic profiling is not justified in the survey - up fourteen percent from January 2010, the last time this question was asked.

Results from the Washington Post-ABC poll paint a different picture. Seventy percent of Americans support using available information about passengers in order to determine who gets chosen for extra security screening at airports in the poll. Of the criteria that should be used to select passengers for extra security screening, 86 percent believe personal behavior should be included, 78 percent say travel history, 55 percent responded that nationality should be considered, and half indicated that personal appearance should be included. Four in ten said that race should be a factor.

The Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted by telephone on November 21, 2010 among 514 adults. It has a sampling error or plus-or-minus five percentage points.

The CBS News Poll was conducted among 1,137 adults from November 7-10 by telephone. It has a sampling error of plus-or-minus three percentage points.

Filed under: TSA
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Howard

    This is a much bigger issue than our disgust with scanners and pat downs. This is another step in Obama's indoctrination, to get Americans used to subservience and obedience. We are being gradually transformed into citizens who will even allow government workers to grope ours and our loved ones genitals. It's like boiling a frog. If the government increases the heat little by little, the frog doesn't notice it, until it's too late. Our rights and our resources are being robbed by Obama and his dictatorial policies. We must not loose our individual rights to this corrupt regime !!!

    November 23, 2010 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  2. Fed Up

    I think they should use the correct terminology. From everything I have been reading, it should be called a "feel up" instead of a "pat down". These TSA agents are nothing more than sex offenders in the eyes of every state in the union. Since this is now a government sanctioned activity, maybe they ought to drop all charges other than rape against the sex offenders. After all, if the employees can do it, so can the people. Parents who think this is ok to do to your children, you are no longer able to sThe imaging machine is a different story. I can go along with that.

    November 23, 2010 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  3. Shari from Madison

    I want to be safe but I'm disgusted by the actions of some of the people doing the pat down. If you've ever been molested the enhanced pat down will make you relive the abuse you have already suffered. Also, are we now so paranoid we see a terrorist in anyone who is not exactly like us? If we do we have let the terrorists rule us. If we must have these pat downs we need to have much better training of the people doing them.

    November 23, 2010 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  4. njmom58

    Well I just wonder when body cavity searches will be. Drug smugglers have been doing it for years. What makes the tsa think terrorists wont. Need to profile and have a no fly list as well as a top search list. We do not need to be so politically correct that it kills us

    November 23, 2010 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  5. Will 18E

    one poll uses 514 and the other 1137 by phone: does not ask if they fly or how often.
    Why not poll flyers as they enter or exit and airport.
    I have flown over 1.1 million miles with American Airlines alone1989 to now.
    If I walk through an x-ray why take my shoes off, have my carry on being x-rayed etc. . If this was about addition safety and
    expedience and ease maybe so. For machines are mean to replace employees, in-general.
    IF the x-ray is the end all answer,then other than showing a ticket and I.D. the traveler should be able to proceed through security without any other requirements, if choosing the x-ray.

    November 23, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  6. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Get over yourselves America. Deal with it! If we were attacked and these measures weren't taken, then everyone will have a hissy fit and said someone dropped the ball. A bunch of cry babies.

    November 23, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  7. Nancy Pelosi, the wicked witch of the west, the DemocRAT gift that just keeps on giving

    This poll should ONLY be conducted using respondents that have actuallly gone through the scanners and experienced a grope-down. People who have not, don't know what they are voting for or against in the poll. I'm sure the numbers would be very different after people get their junk squeezed and poked!

    November 23, 2010 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  8. aj

    "Most" Americans is a nice spin. The new poll showed those who support the scans dropped from 81 to 64% in 2 weeks time. The term "most" agree on scanners is certainly correct, as 64% is a majority, but considering the other factual numbers you've enclosed, it is yet another example of media spin.

    1 out of every 3 Americans is not for the scanners, using the same data this article is discussing.

    November 23, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  9. Dan

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

    November 23, 2010 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  10. Rick James B----

    I'll take a pat dawn....Nothing to hide. What people forgot about is the Freedoms and Liberties we all lost due the Patriot Act...remember that bit of legislation? We're all worked about airport screening, but forgot our phones, emails, other communication means maybe monitored at anytime.

    November 23, 2010 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  11. Limbaugh is a liberal

    Oh it's a privacy issue! How dare you scan every passanger! What's that? Terrorists struck again? Why didn't the government do something? Waaah! Waaah!

    November 23, 2010 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  12. Peter E

    What the TSA won't tell you is that they DO profile... but not just for terrorists. These scanners and pat-downs are not just looking for weapons, but also drugs. And the average white American actually fits that profile! Sorry! Thank all your coked-out friends!

    November 23, 2010 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  13. claire

    We just came back from Mexico Sunday. In Mexico, our checked luggage was subject to a hand search, in our presence, every bag for every passenger. We went thru the metal detector and our carry-on's were scanned. No need to take off shoes. At the gate, every piece of hand carried baggage was opened and hand checked. The lines went fast, very thorough and fast.

    In Dallas, we went through the metal detectors with our shoes off. Only about one in twenty of us was selected randomly to go through the body scanners. Of course there was no hand check of anyhone's carry on luggage. All of the poor people singled out for body scans are treated like convicts. Assume the stance. One lady was standing in the scanning machine. The TSA agent said, "You moved. Now I am going to run my hand up your leg as far as it will go." She started to cry, and continued to cry.

    It doesn't take a genious to figure out which system is workable. All a terrorist has to do in the US is go with a buddy, and one of them will get through without a body scan.

    The hand luggage scanners can't detect powders. Only a syringe full of liquid is needed to explode it. If more than three ounces is needed, a passenger can put it in separate bottles.

    Chertoff is paid by both TSA and Rapiscan–he has been trying to get these dangerous Xray machines into airports for years. It is just about money–he was on TV the same day as the underwear bomber, even though he was no longer HSA chief, saying we needed his company's scanners–was this a news item–or a commercial? Solution? In customs in Dallas we saw a sign saying to go online to to get approved to bypass customs lines in every country. Why doesn’t TSA do this with "trusted travelers?" Just use the enormous TSA budget for sensible things instead of ridiculous ones–better to pay people to do background checks instead wasting money on worthless and dangerous machines, and treating law abiding citizens like criminals.

    Rapiscan spent $300,000 lobbying congress to buy scanners. Rapiscan was rewarded with $41 million in contracts so far. Rapiscan says it is approved by TSA and FDA–and provides a link to This safety act simply says that if it is too hard on your bottom line, you can ask for an exemption from doing safety tests and reports on your equipment, witht the goal of making the public safe from terrorists by not delaying the manufacture of these machines.

    Remember–TSA and FDA say that the scanners leach less radiation than flying for two minutes, however–cosmic radiation is not X radiation. The Rapiscan scanners are illegal in MN. TSA has no legal enforcement powers as long as they are in our airports or on our runways. They are our guests. Our own police can and must enforce the law, and these machines should be shut down permanently. If TSA and the FDA are really that ignorant, why should we believe them?

    The millimeter wave scanners, are essentially microwave ovens. Passengers have to take off rings and earrings to prevent being burned in these ovens. Some people’s rings don’t come off—so they have to be molested. It reminds me of Nazi Germany. These ovens were not meant to be used on humans—there have been no long terms tests on the effects of this kind of radiation. We are both electrical engineers.

    November 23, 2010 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  14. T'sah from Virginia

    I do not FLY – but when I do, it will be the Scanner for me!! If Americans are for the SCANNER, then what is the problem?????????????????????? If you chose NOT to be scanned – you get PATTED – Case in Point!!!!

    Americans need to STOP complaining about being SAFE if they don't want to take the "precautions"!!! If we have another near-catastrophe and/or attack – then everyone will past BLAME and then want to be protected. They won't mind the SCANS and/or RUBS at that time!!!

    I will take being SAFE over a PAT anytime!!!

    November 23, 2010 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  15. phoenix86

    Face it America. We have the pat-downs, full body scans and long lines because we do not profile. This is the price we pay for political correctness.

    November 23, 2010 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  16. Dennis in AZ

    It seems like we could save some money on Healthcare if we just gave all airline travelers both a colonoscopy and a CT Scan right there at the gates. As I'm already in Stage 4 Cancer and well-past any treatment that could offer a cure, I don't fear the extra radiation. On the other hand, I think America is wrong assuming that the extra radation won't hurt them. I have special concerns for our children and subjecting them to what I consider an unneccessary dose of radiation.

    November 23, 2010 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |