Even after the bombing last month at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, Americans say they are more concerned about their civil liberties than curbing terrorism, a new CNN/Time/ORC poll found.
Americans are particularly worried about the government spying on their digital communications: 59% oppose email and cell phone surveillance, up 13% from 2006. They might not want to be heard, but they’re OK being seen: Popular opinion has swelled particularly in favor of expanded camera surveillance—something that was key to the investigation of the Boston bombing. Up 11 points from 2006, 81% of Americans were in favor of expanded camera surveillance.
Sixty-one percent of Americans say they are more concerned the government will enact policies that restrict civil liberties—nearly double the 31% who are more worried the government won’t enact terror-preventing policies. But when asked, majorities of Americans also favored law enforcement monitoring of online chat rooms and forums and facial-recognition scanning at public events.
More Americans may favor protecting civil liberties over anti-terror policies because more Americans, 63%, actually believe terrorists will find a way to launch a major attack no matter what government does, compared to 32% who disagree.
“I find it really heartening, this poll. There was a period after 9/11 where people where in a totally justified state of concern over the safety of the homeland, there were a lot of things done in the name of counter-terrorism that were pretty violent of civil liberties,” New York Magazine writer John Heilemann said on Morning Joe. “People are much more focused on the notion that there is a balance that needs to be struck, they’re not just willing to give up all their civil liberties for the ostensible claim of homeland security. That’s a good tension to have.”
The poll was based off of 606 interviews with Americans via landlines and cell phones. It has a margin of error of +/-4%.