CNN/Time Poll: Cutback civil liberties to fight terror?
May 1st, 2013
04:00 PM ET
10 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.

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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. Victory

    What?? Are they still saying we even have any civil liberties left to give up.. We already gave most of them up after 9/11, now they want more.. Are you serious.. This country is starting to blow..

    May 1, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  2. Hank

    I'm afraid that because of fear of these whackos, people are going to willingly give up their freedoms. Pity.

    May 1, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  3. notahistorianbut

    Quotes from the past should be remembered. It seems we're a country who prefers not looking back at where we've been and learning from the past. Ben Franklin warned against reaching for security over liberty; FDR in his first inaugural address told the country the 'only thing to fear was fear itself' and we had a president who warned the country about allowing the military-industrial complex to get to big. Since 9/11, the Bill of Rights has been shredded and I saw a breakdown of it with only the 3rd amendment of the Bill of Rights left untouched (right against soldiers occupying your home). The passage of the USA Patriot Act signed into law in October 2001 pretty much fullfilled the all three of these particular presidents words of warning. We've had warrentless wiretapping courtesy of the Patriot Act, accepted enhanced interrogations (torture) and been told by a vice president "to watch what we say, watch what we do", any questioning of what the government is doing provides 'aid and comfort to the terrorist', etc possibly allowing the government to track what we check out at the library. A statement seen is that it was easy for the government to take these rights and drown them (waterboarding anyone); but people in power from the president to the congress are NOT going to give them up. I generally find these complaints ironic as there were VERY FEW when they were signed into law. Maybe the country can work forward to reverse these really bad consequences of the law and quit allowing the politicos to keep us controlled through fear.

    May 1, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  4. timelord7202

    Cure the disease by killing the patient.

    But many who complain now didn't last decade, oddly... oh well!

    May 1, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  5. Alpah Chinoh

    Yes yes the Fuhrer will be most pleased. We must do whatever it takes to protect the fatherland from the "terrorists" at all costs! How do we sto them though?? Maybe we can put them in camps......

    May 1, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  6. Marvin Jergens

    So much for the 14th Ammendment

    May 1, 2013 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  7. trainey

    4 out of 10???? Baloney, looking at the replies here I would think that the numbers are not representative of the actual population. Probably more like less than 10%.

    May 1, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  8. Billy Schleppegrell

    HEADLINE: 60% of Americans refuse to give up civil liberties because of Terrorism!!

    May 1, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  9. longtooth

    Those who wish to hurt us use our own technology and freedom to accomplish it. If we give up our freedom to protect ourselves from people who don't even understand what freedom is, we are surrendering. I'm from Boston. We will never surrender.

    May 1, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  10. Krustydog

    Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.

    William Pitt

    May 1, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  11. Lori

    I think this is a dangerous pattern. Liberty is SO precious! If we as individuals and as a people don't guard it jealously, it will be lost! I remember when I lived in China 10 years ago the thought that the Chinese government was tracking or reading my emails seemed so communist and so evil. Yet, apparently the IRS can do that same thing now. Under the patriot act warrantless searches are now commonplace A few years ago, who would have thought this is possible? Indeed, if we don't stand up and guard our freedoms we will surely have none. Those who would trade liberty for security really will have neither. America is great because it was founded on the principle of liberty for all.

    May 1, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  12. CaesarXIII

    Political Correctness killed America. Quit being cry babies and grow a pair.

    May 1, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  13. Victory

    Are there any left to give up?? We gave up most after 9/11 and now they want more?? Are you serious.. The terrorists win or maybe its our govt who wins.. We are falling apart...Terrorists win!!!!!

    May 1, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  14. Hossman90

    “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." Benjamin Franklin

    May 1, 2013 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  15. Pete

    BinLaden said all he wanted to do was basicly make us afraid because as a nation nobody ever had terrorists do what they did in NY..Now his maniacal plan of psychological warfare is working to perfection because look at the funds in Homeland Security and the Patriot Act cost and the added stress on most peoples lives as well.BinLaden is gone but his maniacal legacy in terrorizing us lives on doesn't it Americans and if you don't believe me go to an airport,football game or any event like the Boston marathon that contains vast amounts of people and again its another way to put stress in all of Americans lives at ours expense!!

    May 1, 2013 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
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