By a three-to-one margin, American voters say they would personally rather go through a full-body scanning machine that would show near-naked images of their body than have an airport security agent physically pat them down.
As the busy Christmas travel season gets under way and Americans head to the airport, a Fox News poll released Friday found that 61 percent of voters would pick the body scanning machine, while 18 percent would choose the pat-down. For 14 percent it doesn’t matter either way.
When the scanning machines were first starting to be used at airports this summer, 69 percent said they would personally prefer the machine and 16 percent the pat-down (August 2010).
Since that time, there have been reports of images from the scanners being shared and mocked by security workers, as well as claims by air travelers that agents are picking people to go through the machine based on looks instead of using a more objective selection process.
Just over half of voters say they are very (19 percent) or somewhat confident (36 percent) that the body images the machine captures are being handled appropriately and deleted. Forty-one percent are not confident that is happening.
Twice as many voters think choosing passengers to go through the scanner using behavioral and appearance profiling (54 percent) would be more effective at preventing future terrorist attacks than randomly putting people through the machines (27 percent).
Scanners vs. Pat-Downs among Groups
Women (64 percent) are more likely than men (57 percent) to prefer the scanning machine, though roughly the same number of men (19 percent) and women (17 percent) would opt for the agent pat-down. More men (17 percent) than women (11 percent) say they don’t care either way.
Among age groups, people under 30 are the most likely to pick the pat-down (26 percent). And those aged 55-64 are the most likely to walk through the scanner (70 percent).
When considering party affiliation, Democrats (65 percent) are more likely than Republicans (60 percent), independents (58 percent) and Tea Party members (54 percent) to opt for the scanning machine.
For the pat-down, Tea Party members (23 percent) are more likely than Republicans (21 percent), Democrats (17 percent) and independents (16 percent) to choose that option.
The national telephone poll was conducted for Fox News by Opinion Dynamics Corp. among 900 randomly chosen registered voters from Dec, 14 to Dec. 15. The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points for the total sample.