Poll: Most Support New TSA Measures

5. The TSA needs a Barry White theme song It's unlikely that John Pistole, the Transportation Security Agency's dour chief who once warned that terrorism must "always be considered imminent," expected such public vilification over his agency's new airport screening procedures. But a protest that began with a few bloggers has, since Pistole announced the pat-down or body-scan policy in a one-paragraph note on TSA.gov a few weeks ago, become something closer to public execration. TSA screeners have been twitted by Saturday Night Live, Grammy-winning musician Steve Vaus, and cartoonist Tom Tomorrow. The agency itself has been rebuked by some of the same politicians who voted unanimously to create it a decade ago. The surprise is that, beyond exempting flight attendants and pilots, the TSA has remained unyielding and impenitent. All Pistole would tell CBS News this week is that he'll continue asking: "How can we be better informed if we modify our screening? Then, what are the risks that we deal with?" That's Washington-ese for "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby." TSA

CBS News Poll analysis by the CBS News Polling Unit: Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Anthony Salvanto.
CBS

In the wake of a Thanksgiving holiday season marked by concerns that the Transportation Security Administration has gone too far with its new security procedures, a new CBS News poll finds that most Americans do not object to full-body x-ray machines or thorough pat-downs by TSA employees.

Seventy-six percent say airports should use full-body digital x-ray machines to screen passengers - the very machines that spurred a "national opt-out day" last Wednesday from opponents of the new measures. Just 19 percent oppose use of the machines. Still, support for the machines has dropped slightly, from 81 percent three weeks ago.

Passengers who refuse the screenings or are selected for additional examination can be given so-called "enhanced" pat-downs by TSA employees, a situation that sparked criticism from those who said they did not want agents touching their "junk."

There is more opposition here - 40 percent of Americans, including 44 percent of women, say these pat-downs are too intrusive. But a majority of Americans - 57 percent - say they are not.

That said, most Americans don't want to be on the receiving end of a pat-down. Fifty-seven percent said they would be uncomfortable receiving one, including 27 percent who say they would be very uncomfortable. Women are most likely to say they would be uncomfortable.

Few Americans - just seven percent in the survey - say the new procedures have caused them to not fly or change their travel plans.

And despite claims from some that the new procedures are simply the latest example of "security theater," most Americans believe they are effective.

Thirty-six percent say they are "very effective" at stopping terrorism, and 47 percent say they are "somewhat effective." Just 15 percent say they are not very or not at all effective.

Americans are split on how far the government should go: 42 percent are more concerned that the government will fail to improve airport anti-terrorism measures, while 43 percent are more concerned that it will employ measures that go too far in invading the personal privacy.

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This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,067 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone November 29-December 2, 2010. Phone numbers were dialed from RDD samples of both standard land-lines and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher.

This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.


Brian Montopoli is senior political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of his posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.

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