12/16/05 FOX Poll: Air Marshal Shooting Justified

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Most Americans see the recent federal air marshal shooting of a passenger who claimed to have a bomb as justified. Moreover, nearly half think armed air marshals should be on every U.S. flight, according to a new FOX News poll.

The poll, which was conducted the week following the shooting, finds that 78 percent of the public believes — even though afterward it was determined the man did not have a bomb and was mentally ill — the federal air marshal's actions were justified.

Among groups, roughly equal numbers of men (80 percent) and women (76 percent) think the shooting was justified. Whites are 25 percentage points more likely than non-whites to think so (82 percent and 57 percent respectively). Republicans (89 percent) are 21 percentage points more likely than Democrats (68 percent) and 10 points more likely than independents (79 percent) to say it was justified.

The December 7 shooting, which resulted in the passenger's death, was the first time an air marshal has killed someone.

Overall, most Americans believe U.S. air travel is safe today, including 37 percent that say “very safe” and another 47 percent “somewhat safe.” These results are inline with previous surveys taken since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Almost two-thirds of Americans (63 percent) say the shooting incident makes them feel air travel is safer — five times as many people as say less safe (12 percent).

“While some people may have qualms about the circumstances of the shooting, the fact that the air marshals were there has made people feel safer,” comments Opinion Dynamics Chairman John Gorman. “Until this event, however tragic, the actual existence of air marshals, given that they fly incognito, was only a possibility for most people. Now they know the marshals are there and are working.”

Looking at the issue more generally, about half of Americans (49 percent) think armed air marshals should be on every U.S. flight compared to 42 percent that say they should be on random flights. Few people (5 percent) oppose the use of armed marshals all together.

Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News on December 13-14, 2005.

• PDF: Click here for full poll results.