Enhanced Scanners Win 2-1 Support, But Half Say Hands Off to Pat-Downs


Though the sample is small, the results indicate that opposition rises further among more-frequent fliers, those who fly at least every few months.

The poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, also indicates a potential negative impact on air travel, but not an overwhelming one. Twenty percent of adults say the new TSA procedures will make them less likely to fly, but 10 percent instead say it makes them more likely to travel by air. There's no difference among occasional vs. infrequent fliers.

Poll Finds Broad Support for Profiling

That potential net negative of 10 percent could be a problem for the airlines if it occurred. But seven in 10 say the rules won't make a difference in their future travel -- and actual effects on travel likely will depend on passenger experiences and possible TSA adjustments to the outcry over its approach.

PROFILE -- As another tool in airport security efforts, this poll finds broad support for passenger profiling -- but with that support heavily dependent on profile elements. Eighty-six percent say personal behavior should be a factor, and 78 percent say a passenger's travel history should be included in his or her security profile. Fewer, 55 percent, favor including a passenger's nationality, and half would include his or her personal appearance.

Other potential elements, however, garner majority opposition as elements to include in a security profile. Fifty-nine percent oppose using a passenger's race or religion, and 65 percent say sex should not be a factor.

There are differences among groups, with profiling generally winning more support from Republicans, conservatives, men and whites, as well as, naturally, among those who see security as a higher national priority than protecting privacy rights. But there are commonalities as well; racial profiling, for instance, is opposed by 6-in-10 whites and non-whites alike.

SECURITY/PRIVACY -- This poll finds greater opposition to the x-ray scanners than has been measured in previous surveys. The intensifying controversy may play a role; so may the descriptions provided. This survey gave pro- and con- details, including the fact that the machines produce naked images of a passenger's body. The question on pat-downs similarly gave details, noting that the new procedure involves a same-sex TSA officer placing his or her palms and fingers on the passenger's body, including sensitive areas such as the groin and breast.

It's notable that x-ray scanners get 64 percent support, and aggressive pat-downs get 48 percent support, despite their intrusiveness -- a result that reflects broader views on the question of security vs. privacy. While the public prizes both, in an either/or choice, 68 percent say it's more important for the government to investigate possible terrorist threats, even if that intrudes on privacy, than for it to avoid intruding on privacy, if that limits anti-terrorism efforts.

Pat-Down and Scanner Support Varies with Importance Placed on Investigating Terrorism

Those priorities hold through in views of the latest TSA procedures. The new scanners are supported by 74 percent of those who give priority to investigating terrorism, vs. 42 percent of those who say privacy concerns should trump. And among those more concerned with security, 59 percent see the pat-downs as justified -- while among those more focused on privacy, 77 percent say hands off.

METHODOLOGY -- This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Nov. 21, 2010, among a random national sample of 514 adults, including landline and cell-phone-only respondents. Results have a margin of sampling error of 5 points. Click here for a detailed description of sampling error. This survey was produced by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y, with sampling, data collection and tabulation by SSRS of Media, Pa.

ABC News polls can be found at ABCNEWS.com at http://abcnews.com/pollingunit

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