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. sisterchef

    Seems like the obvious isn't obvious....4 out of 10 is the MINORITY. Most people, the MAJORITY, are not in favor of giving up liberties for any reason, particularly not because of fear mongering on the part of those who would be all too happy to see civil liberties constrained. Be certain you know who the terrorists in this deal really are.

    May 1, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  2. DS

    Bullsh!t. Back that preposterous claim up with the statistical numbers used to come up with this outrageous lie.

    May 1, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  3. Hamburger Jones

    Frankly, the more independent and strong we are, the less chance terrorists have. Don't forget that the object of terror is to force you to become like the terrorists. They'd like us to appoint a clergyman to run our country, same as they do, and we obediently run to find some clown like santorum who can talk and wave a Bible at the same time and ask him to please rule over us. I don't want every crazy man to have a gun, but my mildly eccentric neighbors can have all the guns they want. The more we have to ask the government what to do, the more like a Sharia-run country we become.

    May 1, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  4. Randy Holmes

    I am willing to give up the 16th amendment.

    May 1, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  5. jam

    And the terrorists win...

    May 1, 2013 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  6. bribarian

    Does anybody actually believe these "CNN polls" ?

    May 1, 2013 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  7. DarthVaderMentor

    The agenda by the left and the progressive statists is clear. Enable the government to be able to perform POLITICAL GENOCIDE. This means eliminating the 2nd Amendment, registration of all firearms and bullets in preparation for mass confiscation and the implementation of government controlled insane asylums and death panels with Obamacare as they did in the old Soviet Union.

    May 1, 2013 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  8. p

    More people die from drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and car wrecks than guns, but anti-gunners don't want to go there.

    Really? I could have sworn there were all sorts of restrictions on who can and cannot buy alcohol, tobacco and who
    can drive a car.

    May 1, 2013 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  9. Piroko

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

    May 1, 2013 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  10. Karl Denton

    It's kind of funny but when we lose civil liberties, for any reason, we never get them back!

    May 1, 2013 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  11. SB1790

    A better headline would be 'Four Out of Ten Americans Are Nit-Wits'.

    May 1, 2013 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  12. Chris

    Wow! The socialistic movement is going in ernest over at CNN and Obama/Democratic headquarters. They should all be ashamed of themselves and go back and start reading the history of all of the battles fought and won, all of the soldiers who died protecting these very rights, and maybe get out of their safety zones and help fight terrorism in this country. How about before the CITIZENS give up anything that we better protect our borders and prevent ILLEGAL ALIENS from the southern borders from entering so easily? How about before the CITIZENS give up anything that we better protect our borders and stop the Cubans and Haitians from entering via water? How about before the CITIZENS give up anything that we do a better job of screening all legal applicants that want to come to America? Let's start there folks and maybe we will not have to turn into the socialist country that CNN and Obama want.

    May 1, 2013 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  13. sean

    story reads "only 4 in 10" are willing to give up liberties"

    That is astounding. 40% of the population willing to give up something millions struggled for hundreds of years to get for something that may or may not stop anything.

    This is one of the most saddening things I have ever seen. Is it cowardice, apathy, lack of understanding, lowered intelligence, I just cant understand this.

    By using the word "only" does the author suggest that it should be higher that we should all be ok with more government intrusions into our personal lives?

    May 1, 2013 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  14. PeteK

    Thank god that 6 in 10 are still smart enough to realize you'll never have 100% security, no matter how many civil liberties you give up.

    May 1, 2013 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  15. Frank A NYC

    Cut back on civil liberties? NO, life is not risk free and the government does not always follow it's own rules.

    May 1, 2013 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  16. Mac

    How does giving up some of my freedom guarantee me added security? Let's be honest – this was a blown call on FBI's part. Per recent reports and news, there are many watch-lists that exist. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was on one, if not more, of these lists. Should we figure out a smarter way of keeping track and responding or look to implement new procedures without following the 'broken' ones already in place?

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

    I have to concur with the others here, we should always preserve personal liberty here in the US. Restricting the liberties of 312 million people to save a handful is not the answer.


    May 1, 2013 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  18. Les

    4 in 10 CNN / Time viewers have no clue.

    May 1, 2013 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  19. American Thinker

    It's already too late. This country will be a police state in less than 20 years. Mark my words.
    They will imprison people for speaking out against certain government agencies. for visiting certain websites or simply associating with certain groups. The Police/FBI will have limitless powers to do whatever they want; to imprison anyone indefinitely without even alerting families of any whereabouts all under the name of "national security". We will become not much different than Iran, Saudi Arabia, or Russia. The elites will be able to do as they please because they have money, power, and access for everyone else you better shut up and so as you're told.

    May 1, 2013 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  20. Brian

    Well, five out of ten Americans are of below-average intelligence, so maybe we spin this as "Even some of the dumber among us realize sacrificing civil liberties is not acceptable."

    May 1, 2013 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  21. ddog123456

    Give me liberty, or give me death!

    May 1, 2013 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  22. edmundburkeson

    4 out of 10 Americans willing to give it up. 10 out of 10 liberals want to take it whether you want to or not.

    May 1, 2013 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  23. Teton

    Tell us what to think CNN, oh I mean US Government. We'll just go back to being sheep.

    May 1, 2013 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  24. WVLady63

    Stop letting anyone and everyone become "American Citizens." Close our borders to everybody for a least 100 years. Make profiling mandatory. Keep tabs on people from hot beds of terrorism who come into our country for anything! Stop giving aliens Section 8 Housing, Pell Grants, businesses and free access to our system, PERIOD! The only thing people from terrorist countries want is everything they can get from us so they can VOMIT ACROSS OUR BORDERS AND MURDER US! Because our Government gives foreigners preferential treatment over born and bread Americans, they come here and dictate to US what they want and what they will do and because of political correctness, THEY GET WHAT THEY WANT WHEN THEY WANT IT!!! For all of you bleeding heart liberals out there who think we should just open our borders and let every body in, call one of the victims of the Boston Bombing and see what they think.

    May 1, 2013 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  25. Peoples State of Illinois


    4 out of 10 Americans are also MORONS
    Also known as "liberals."

    May 1, 2013 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
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