Americans Say We’ve Given Up Too Much Freedom and Privacy in the Name of Security Since 9/11

With the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks approaching, 55 percent of Americans say “we have given up too much freedom and privacy in the name of security” since the attacks, according to a new national Reason-Rupe Public Opinion Survey of 1,200 adults.

Nearly, 79 percent of Americans feel we have less privacy now than we did before 9/11 and 62 percent say we have less personal freedom today. However, 81 percent have faith that the security measures implemented since the attacks make us safer overall.

Only 15 percent of the public is “very confident” that the Department of Homeland Security, created following 9/11, will prevent another terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Another 40 percent are somewhat confident and 21 percent are slightly confident that the agency will prevent an attack.

When it comes to airport security, 49 percent of Americans believe the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) would catch a terrorist trying to board a plane at a U.S. airport, while 44 percent say the TSA would not. Confidence in the TSA is notably high among Democrats, who, by a margin of 54 percent to 38 percent, believe the TSA would capture a terrorist trying to get on a plane. Conversely, by 51 percent to 45 percent, Republicans do not think TSA screeners would spot a terrorist.

Over 41 percent of the public supports replacing TSA screeners with airport security screeners from private companies who would work under government oversight, but 47 percent of those polled oppose such a change. Here again, Democratic support for the TSA is noteworthy. Fifty-nine percent of Democrats oppose a return to private security screeners, with only 30 percent in favor. In contrast, 55 percent of Republicans support privatizing airport security screeners and 35 percent oppose doing so.

As the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq continue, just 19 percent of Americans believe leaving U.S. troops in Afghanistan until at least 2014 will make us safer, while 65 percent think it will make no difference in our safety and 12 percent contend it will make us less safe.

In evaluating the war in Iraq, 62 percent of Americans say the war has not been worth it for the United States.

And a nearly identical number of Americans, 61 percent, say the United States uses its military force in too many foreign conflicts. Twenty-five percent say the US military is used in the “right amount” of foreign conflicts and 9 percent say the military is not used enough.

Full Poll Online

The complete Reason-Rupe survey is online here (pdf).

This Reason-Rupe poll, conducted August 9-18, 2011, surveyed a random, national sample of 1,200 adults by telephone (790 on landlines, 410 on cell phones). The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The poll was conducted for Reason Foundation by NSON Opinion Strategy.

This is part of a series of Reason-Rupe public opinion surveys dedicated to exploring what Americans really think about government and major issues. This Reason Foundation project is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation.