CNN/Time Poll: Cutback civil liberties to fight terror?
May 1st, 2013
04:00 PM ET
9 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. Irish Seanachie from Maine

    To quote an auld friend, "those who would sacrifice their liberty for security deserve neither" our collective awareness is the only real answer to this situation. Slainte !

    May 1, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  2. bribarian

    Another epic propaganda poll from CNN.

    May 1, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  3. Patrick

    Those willing to give up some freedom to gain some security deserve neither.

    May 1, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  4. Frances Morris

    Pathetic, just pathetic! The American people (sheeple)nreally do want to be enslaved. The NWO must be overjoyed – we are making it soooo easy for them to create the prison camps!!!! Very sad and depressed about how gullible and dumbed-down folks are these days. It must be the fluoride.

    May 1, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  5. Alex

    Fools. Four out of ten americans are cowards. What happened to give me liberty or give me death? Civil liberties are what make this country great. When you are willing to destroy what makes this a great country because you are afraid of a tiny tiny risk of terrorism, you are a coward who is soon exactly what the terrorists want. Grow a fricken spine.

    May 1, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  6. wily pagan

    It is good to know that a majority of Americans are unwilling to sacrifice their civil liberties in the fight against terrorism. Here's an idea: how about the current administration drops its "scrubbing of Islam" from trainings for the terrorism fighters and make the Islamist suffer a loss of THEIR civil liberties for perpetrating terrorism. Like most Americans, I have a problem with granny and babies from the Midwest being felt up at the airport by TSA in the name of "fairness" for these terrorist animals. We know the enemy and it is Islam.

    May 1, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  7. WAKEUP48

    4 out of 10 Americans are also MORONS

    May 1, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  8. card51short

    If you want to give up your liberties for some false sense of security, then you deserve neither.

    May 1, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  9. James

    Only 40% are willing to trade liberty for an illusion of security? ONLY?

    May 1, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  10. RangerDOS

    Give away a civil liberty, it doesn't take long. Now try and get it back, not so easy.

    May 1, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  11. Trevor

    Hey! The terrorists have won! I'm sure American will be happy to have a cavity search to get on airplanes or cameras in their homes just so they can get a false sense of security. If the point of terrorism is to terrorize than mission accomplished. Americans are willing to give up whatever rights that are required even though the chances of dying in a terrorist attack are so remote it's not even worth thinking about.
    You win terrorists, you win.

    May 1, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  12. d

    Notice it is 4/10, not 6/10. So it is good to see the majority of Americans still have their sanity.

    May 1, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  13. Dave

    4 in 10 are ok with this, so that means 6 in 10 (or 50% more) are not in favor of it; correct?

    May 1, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  14. Visara

    Here we go...police state slowly being implemented, one false flag attack at a time

    May 1, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  15. Arguello #1

    You know Cuba has no organize crime, they have no real Violent gangs, and do you know why?? cuz the goverment controls everything!! i dont think i like the trade off!! i rather have my freedom AT MY OWN RISK! THIS COUNTRY IS IN FOR A BI AWAKENING, LITTLE BY LITTLE OUR "CIVIL LIBERTIES" ARE BEING TAKEN AWAY ON THE PRETENSE OF "SECURITY" (JOKE) CAN YOU SAY POLICE STATE IN 10 YEARS!!!?? REAL TALK PEOPLE!! GOVERMENT = LIES!! LEFT AND RIGHT!!

    May 1, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  16. Rick Houlihan

    What we need to do to fight terrorism is start profiling. What we are doing today in the name of political correctness is ridiculous. There is no need to screen a 70 year old grandmother from Iowa at the airport and anyone who thinks that doing so is reasonable needs to leave now and move to North Korea or some other dictatorship.

    The FBI does not go around knocking on every door dragging everyone they see in for questioning when a serial murder is running loose. Doing that would be not only be a ridiculous waste of resources, but it would be slow and allow the killer to continue murdering innocent people. To catch a killer the FBI uses profiling to determine the type person that would most likely fit the crime and focuses efforts investigating only those who fit the profile.

    Terrorists should be the easiest people on the planet to profile. Heavily religious Muslims who are young, male, single, and without children. It is brain dead, yet we will let dozens of people who fit that profile walk right through security checkpoints so we can stop the 70 year old grandmother for a random search. Please explain how in the world that makes any sense.

    May 1, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  17. WAKEUP48

    Giving up ANY Liberties is UN-AMERICAN and Brainwashing

    May 1, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  18. William

    Yes, let us Citizens have our emails, texts and social media cataloged and stored, lets have drones over our heads and TSA agents feeling up our wives and daughters and the FBIs' cameras lurking in corners just so we can have an open border and free wheeling immigration. Any sensible solution will be met with cries of Racism and a Dem politician will be standing there as they enter to give them free benefits and food stamps which will come from what little i earn with whats left of my job. But thank my "non-existent" God that i live in a country that is so free.
    Hope and Change, indeed.

    May 1, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  19. NWO Hater

    Should the story read, "6 out of 10 OPPOSE"? Nah.............that would only make sense. Hidden agenda.

    May 1, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  20. mdavis

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

    For 250 years men and women have died to give us the rights and liberties we enjoy today. Let's not let them down, or make their sacrifices meaningless.

    May 1, 2013 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  21. Bob

    Cut back what exactly?

    Between the neo-conservatives and the neo-liberals I can't figure out which is worse in terms of destroying civil liberties. The Cons seem to want to tear up due process on a whim and ironically the neo-left seems to only want the police and military to be armed. An odd marriage.

    May 1, 2013 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  22. Daniel Jimenez

    This would make terrorism victorious. This is the home of the brave not the home of the coward.

    May 1, 2013 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  23. WouldYouLookAtThat

    g wrote:

    more people die from gun violence the terrorism -but know body wants to go there:
    More people die from drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and car wrecks than guns, but anti-gunners don't want to go there.

    May 1, 2013 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  24. Carl, Secaucus, NJ

    We are pretty good at terrorizing ourselves already, what with shooting up schools, work places, shopping malls and movie theaters. We don't need these foreigners coming in trying to compete with us.

    May 1, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  25. Hunter Smith MS

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

    Benjamin Franklin

    May 1, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
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