NEW YORK – American voters say they would be willing to give up some personal freedom in the fight against terrorism and, specifically, would be okay with having their bags searched before entering public transit, according to a FOX News poll. Almost half oppose using racial or ethnic profiling.
With random bag searches (search) of people entering public transportation systems in U.S. major cities already underway, the poll finds that a 60 percent majority of voters think the searches are an effective way to prevent terrorist attacks, compared to 26 percent that say the searches are "mostly for show."
Fully 85 percent say they would be fine with having their belongings searched, and most Americans think the bag searches are better described as a "necessary action given the times," (76 percent) than as a "violation of civil liberties" (9 percent).
By 63 percent to 24 percent, voters approve of police using a shoot-to-kill (search) policy if they believe it is necessary to prevent detonation of a bomb or some other type of attack. Among groups, men (71 percent) are much more likely than women (56 percent), and Republicans (76 percent) are significantly more likely than Democrats (53 percent) to approve of a shoot-to-kill policy.
Overall views are more divided on the use of racial profiling (search): 42 percent approve and 49 percent disapprove. Whites are evenly split (46 percent for both approve and disapprove), while non-whites are more than twice as likely to disapprove of profiling than approve (24 percent approve and 65 percent disapprove).
More generally, 64 percent today say they would be willing to give up some personal freedom to reduce the threat of terrorism, down from 71 percent in October 2001. In pre-9/11 polling, 33 percent said they would be willing to give up some personal freedom (May 2001).
"The events of September 11 had a dramatic impact on the attitudes of the American public," comments Opinion Dynamics Vice President Lawrence Shiman. "The changes in attitudes that resulted from the terrorist attack are long-lasting, and may even be permanent."
Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News on July 26-27.
Even though voters think most Americans are feeling more nervous (50 percent) than confident (30 percent) about the country’s ability to prevent terrorist attacks, the United States is still currently seen as the safest country in the world.
When asked to name which country — completely unprompted by a list — is the safest today, 48 percent say the United States, with Canada coming in a distant second at 10 percent. No other country receives double digits; 7 percent think Switzerland is safest and 6 percent say Australia. Seven percent say no country is safest.
Iraq and the London bombings are two of the most talked about news items among friends and neighbors right now. Eighty-two percent of voters say they are talking about the situation in Iraq, including 53 percent that say they are talking about it “a lot.” Likewise, 77 percent are talking about the bombings in London (46 percent “a lot”).
By two-to-one Americans think decisions made by President George W. Bush about the war against terrorism (54 percent) will have more of a long-term, lasting affect on the country than his decisions about Supreme Court justices (23 percent). Fifteen percent think both decisions are equally important.
An 85-percent majority thinks removing U.S. troops from Iraq would not stop terrorism against the United States.
• PDF: Click here for full poll results.