Americans Want Terrorists Caught

An ABC News/Washington Post poll released today has interesting information about Americans’ attitudes toward civil liberties and fighting terrorism.
The poll, first of all, was demographically balanced, with 31% Democrats and 30% Republicans, so the results shouldn’t be skewed. The Post’s article on the poll makes the results seem more even-handed than they really are. Here are the key data:
6. What do you think is more important right now – (for the federal government to investigate possible terrorist threats, even if that intrudes on personal privacy); or (for the federal government not to intrude on personal privacy, even if that limits its ability to investigate possible terrorist threats)?
Investigate threats: 65%
Respect privacy: 32%
No opinion: 3%
7. In investigating terrorism, do you think federal agencies are or are not intruding on some Americans’ privacy rights?
Are: 64%
Are not: 32%
No opinion: 4%
8. (IF FEDERAL AGENCIES ARE INTRUDING, Q7) Do you think those intrusions are justified or not justified?
Justified: 49%
Not justified: 46%
No opinion: 5%
Unfortunately, we have no definition of what constitutes “intruding on some Americans’ privacy rights.” But, using whatever definition respondents assume, two-thirds of Americans believe that no “unjustified” intrusions are taking place.
These questions and answers strike me as more meaningful than the one that specifically addresses the current NSA “spying” controversy, where the numbers basically follow a partisan breakdown: 51% consider “this wiretapping of telephone calls and e-mails without court approval” acceptable, while 47% call it unacceptable.
One more thing: by a 53% to 27% margin, respondents say that Judge Sam Alito should be confirmed. Interestingly, that is almost exactly the same margin that favored confirmation of John Roberts and Clarence Thomas.


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