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. Sane Person

    We've already given up too much with the patriot act and similar legislation.

    May 1, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  2. M

    What we really need to do is to take back the civil liberties we've lost since 9/11. Show me one instance where the humiliation we face at the airport has caught one single terrorist. It hasn't. Of course, if you ask some of these officials, they'll say that these measures have indeed been successful, but, when they're pressed on details, they say that information is too sensitive to be released. BS! If they had any success, you can bet your bottom dollar that they'd be trumpeting it as loudly as they could. The fact that they haven't is a strong indication that they haven't caught anyone.

    As for all the other surveillance we face every single day, all we get is a country full of people who are just a tad bit worried about whether that Internet search they're about to do is going to get them on some government watch list. That's no way for anyone to live.

    It's time for this crap to stop.

    May 1, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  3. chuck

    I think its funny when people compare modern usa to past regimes etc..nothing alike..and never could be. paranoia strikes deep

    May 1, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  4. Mark

    This article is a joke, that's why they linked it to the OLD comment system and not the Disqus comments section right?

    May 1, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  5. El Lobo

    Only and idiot would say yes.

    May 1, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  6. Skorpio

    Eliminating Islamic clerics and devout Muslims could drastically reduce terrorism. These guys incite the masses of brainless Muslims to commit crimes and atrocities.

    May 1, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  7. 1010101010

    The answer is: NO!

    May 1, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  8. CW

    And those 4 in 10 are likely Obama voters.

    May 1, 2013 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  9. tokalosh0

    The terrorists won.

    May 1, 2013 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  10. Skorpio

    A massive conversion of Muslims to Christianity is necessary to stop global Islamic madness and violence.

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

    Really the only way for us to be safe is for the government to not only watch us and listen to us 24/7, but also eliminate any decision that we might be faced with. Take away everything that we might hurt ourselves or someone else with, leaving us with butterknives, kinder safety scissors and velcro shoes. That's the America I want to live in.

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

    I thought we already gave them up? How many plots as the TSA foiled?

    May 1, 2013 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  13. Oscar Pitchfork

    The people in this once-fine nation have de-evolved into a mass of unthinking, narcississtic, self-satisfied sheep. They no more look around in a crowd for anything out of the ordinary than they would sitting at home. Mostly, they're too busy gazing at their hand in this, the Telecom Giants latest iteration of "Lets make all the schmucks think they're important ALL the time" mind game. To make this country great again, I'm sorry to say, it's going to take a revolution and the loss of millions of lives, not to mention our extremely comfortable lifestyles. And IF this revolution never omes, we're all goiing to live in a country just like in "hunger Games"...

    May 1, 2013 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  14. Openyoureyes

    If you choose to give over your civil liberties to the government in order to be safe today, you will have no civil liberties or freedoms tomorrow!

    May 1, 2013 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  15. Michael F

    The irony is that politicians love to say "They hate us because of our way of life. They hate us because of our freedom." Then, in response to attacks, they TAKE AWAY THOSE FREEDOMS! By giving up liberties for security, we'd be doing *exactly* what they want. We would be signaling to them they they are winning and should keep it up.

    May 1, 2013 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  16. JoshO

    CNN is permitted to post what they want to under the First Amendment but my comments must "await moderation". Hypocrisy much, CNN?

    May 1, 2013 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  17. JakeF

    No. No. No. No. No.

    This was an issue in 1755. (PA assembly in a letter to the governor... not Franklin) It is still an issue now. What little civil liberties that we still grasp to should remain. We've given up so many already and we will never, ever see these freedoms again. We've willingly given up the illusion of safety in place of too many of our existing freedoms. What have we gotten in return besides more laws, more taxes, less civil liberties and generally nothing except lining the pockets of those who have the most to make from fleecing US?

    May 1, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  18. Scott

    No – dont cut back on civil liberties. Reform imigration and cut down on assylum cases. Do some selective immigration and make some kind of military services mandetory for citizenship. You cannot stay in the country in immigrant or green card ststus for more than three years if you do not accept citizenship.

    May 1, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  19. charles Gannon

    The Furher will be most pleased !

    May 1, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  20. keeani

    Whatever keeps us safer I'm for.

    I would like HD Surveillance Cameras on every street corner, traffic light and highway sign; they should also be in every public space i.e. parks (playgrounds, basketball courts etc), theaters, stadiums, building lobbies, public transportation etc., so people who commit violent acts of crime and terror will not be able to escape, hide and deny their crimes, because the cameras will be used by law enforcement to track them down and to convict them because their crimes will be captured on them.

    May 1, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  21. let's make up some #s

    606 people surveyed out of a country of >300,000,000 is a statistically insignificant sample – to anyone with common sense. Statisticians are obviously not afflicted with common sense...neither are those who publish this drivel.

    May 1, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  22. keeani

    Good article interesting topic.

    May 1, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  23. Robert

    What civil rights are we speaking of? The US has already thrown out most of them after 9/11; and now it would seem Miranda is on the chopping block as well. Its only a matter of time.

    Fascism comes in many forms, and usually appears in the guise of 'protecting the public' from itself or some manufactured threat. The barriers break down slowly akin to dominoes, per cultural shifts or fearmongering, usually a bit of both. The danger is, such an unstable political and social environment makes it easy to spawn the next Adolf Hitler or Saddam Hussein, so Americans must be vigilant in resisting such calls to curtail the few civil rights that remain.

    The more likely explanation to the recent marathon bombings, is a catastrophic failure in intelligence analysis from the various federal agencies charged with this task. As recent evidence has surfaced that it was known well in advance these guys were unstable, and a likely terrorist threat. Russia even expressed 'grave concern' over these individuals some years ago, however all federal agencies involved either ignored the data or made tragic mistakes in the analysis; had the analysis been done properly by intelligence staff, this bombing would have been easily caught beforehand, under current methods.

    The failure here lies squarely at the feet of the US federal agencies charged with protecting the public, and their loafing on the job.

    May 1, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  24. ladydread56

    I am so glad to see the majority of you guys are knowledgeable (hope i spelled that correctly). The government is behind most of this "terrorism". I will not give up my civil liberties. There ought to be some kind of control with the gun issue as well, but i am a licensed gun carrier and will protect my family and my self. My children are licensed gun carriers. Take my civil liberties no i can deal with the terrorists. Second thought " HELLLLLLLLLLLLL Noooooooooooooooooooo. I'll keep my civil liberties the ones I do have left.

    May 1, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  25. Michael

    The people who are willing to give up their civil liberties need to realize it will just put more power into the goverments hand. If your to scared to live your life and afraid that something will happen to you, you will never fully enjoy life. Live life without fear and worrying about things. Sorry this is a cruel world and horrible things are going to happen, but I am not going to give up my civil liberties to make the people who live in fear a state of safety. They will continue to take away more and more until WE THE PEOPLE have no power left. They will use fear to control you, look at history and realize how many times scare tactics have worked.

    May 1, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
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