Poll: Skies Not Safe Enough

Adventurer Steve Fossett waves to the crowds on the runway at Salina, Kansas, 03 March, 2005. Fossett claimed on Thursday what many consider the last great aviation milestone: the first solo, non-stop, non-refueled flight around the world. Fossett, who took off from Salina Municipal Airport in the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer at 6:47 pm Monday (0047 GMT Tuesday), touched down at 1:48 pm (1948 GMT) after deploying a small trailing parachute in the final glide to reduce his speed. AFP/Getty Images

Those who have flown on an airplane since last September say they felt safe doing so, but both these flyers and the general public think there is room for improvement.

A majority thinks the airline industry is doing the right thing by implementing new and stricter security measures, but fewer than half think either the federal government or the airlines have done enough. Nine in ten are willing to experience longer and more intrusive baggage checks and passenger searches in order to improve flight safety. Half of Americans would support travelers carrying a national identification or "smart card."

The latest CBS News poll shows the public gives some credit to both the federal government and the airlines for improving airport security, but fewer than half think either the airlines or the government has done enough. For the first time since last November, more Americans think the federal government has done enough than think the opposite. 48% now say the government has done enough to improve airport security since September 11, 2001; 45% say it has not. Last month, 41% thought the government had done enough, but 54% said it had not.

The public's assessment of actions taken by the airlines is less positive; most still think the airlines need to take additional steps. 38% think the airlines have done enough, while 54% think they have not. That does, however, represent a slight improvement since last month, when 35% thought the airlines had done enough.

DONE ENOUGH TO IMPROVE AIRPORT SECURITY
  • Government
    Done enough 48%
    Not done enough 45

  • Airlines
    Done enough 38%
    Not done enough 54

    Reaction to the specific security measures the airlines and government have recently put in place is positive; very few think the airlines and the airport security personnel have become overzealous. 54% say the airport security personnel are doing the right thing checking passengers; 36% say the airport security personnel are not doing enough, and only 4% think they have gone overboard.

    WHEN CHECKING PASSENGERS, AIRPORT SECURITY PERSONNEL ARE:
    Going too far 4%
    Doing the right thing 54
    Not doing enough 36

    Opinions are similar about some of the new in-flight security measures implemented by the airlines, including requiring passengers to remain in their seats during the flight, and not giving out metal knives with meals. 55% say the airlines are doing the right thing, while 31% say the airlines are not doing enough, and just 10% say the airlines have gone overboard.

    IN NEW AIRLINE SECURITY PROCEDURES, AIRLINES HAVE...
    Gone too far 10%
    Done the right thing 55
    Not done enough 31

    In fact, this poll suggests that the public is willing to put up with a lot more in order to improve flight safety, even as new safety measures have already caused longer delays and airport waiting time. 89% of Americans say they would be willing to experience longer and more intrusive bag checks and passenger searches in order to make flying safe. Only 8% would be unwilling.

    LONGER DELAYS, MORE INTRUSIVE SEARCHES FOR SAFE FLIGHT
    Willing 89%
    Not willing 8

    Meanwhile, almost all who have flown since September 11 say they felt safe on their most recent flight - 59% say they felt very safe, and 34% say they felt somewhat safe. Opinions about all poll questions on air travel safety of those who have flown since last September are similar to those of Americans overall.

    THE "SMART CARD"

    One of the proposed changes in air travel is a trusted-traveler ID card, where frequent air travelers can bypass the extensive security check by using a government-issued card that would contain the passenger's photo and fingerprint. The card would only be issued after the government conducts a background check and an interview with the traveler. This proposal will soon be tested in a pilot program.

    The American public is more willing than not to carry a similar card, a national electronic identification card, or a "smart card," that would contain detailed personal information. 50% are willing to carry a "smart card" in order to reduce the threat of terrorism; 44% are not.

    WILLING TO CARRY A "SMART CARD"
    Willing 50%
    Not willing 44

    Willingness to carry a smart card is down slightly since last September, when 56% said they would be willing to carry a smart card.


    THE PENTAGON'S REJECTED PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICE

    According to the public, a public relations department like the one the Pentagon just cancelled on Tuesday would not have been much of a success anyway. Six in ten say that such an office would NOT make much of a difference in how America is viewed overseas, and 33% say it would make a difference.

    WOULD IT MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
    Yes 33%
    No 61

    The goal of the office was to provide information to foreign news media in order to help influence public opinion of the U.S. abroad. News reports suggested the office had planned to spread false news stories to the foreign press. By 74% to 20%, Americans strongly oppose giving out disinformation as part of U.S. public relations efforts.

    OKAY FOR U.S. TO GIVE OUT DISINFORMATION?
    Yes 20%
    No 74



    This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 861 adults, interviewed by telephone February 24-26, 2002. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. Sampling error for subgroups may be higher.

    For detailed information on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys, click here.

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