Poll: Uncle Sam Can't Be Trusted

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Americans seem willing to surrender some personal information to the government for improved security against terrorism, but nearly three-fourths of adults expressed strong concerns that government can't be trusted with such information, according to a survey.

The Council for Excellence in Government reported that nearly 60 percent of adults in the survey said government should have access to personal information that companies collect about consumers if there is any chance it will help prevent terrorism. Sixteen percent of adults endorsed creation of a national identification card.

Still, Americans expressed skepticism over government's use of such personal information. The survey said 72 percent of adults have only some or very little trust in government to use personal information properly, even though two-thirds of Americans said they believe the government does a good job protecting their civil liberties.

"What tips the balance is whether the public believes that giving up some of its privacy and personal information can help in the fight against terrorism," the authors wrote. "Although Americans remain skeptical, they seem willing to take the chance when the stakes are high."

The Washington-based Council, which studies ways to improve government, receives about $6 million in funding each year from membership fees and corporate and government grants. It has organized seven national town hall meetings with the Homeland Security Department, the final one next week in Seattle.

The survey said Americans feel increasingly safe since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, with half of adults unconcerned that an attack will occur in their own neighborhoods.

But it noted that more than three-fourths of adults believe the United States will be targeted in another major attack at home or overseas in the next few months. Americans worry most about attacks using biological and chemical weapons, and about attacks against power plants, water facilities, airports and airplanes.

The survey showed that 84 percent of Americans don't change their daily routine when the nation's color-coded threat level rises.

The study of 1,633 randomly selected U.S. adults was conducted Feb. 5-8 by telephone by the research firms of Peter D. Hart and Robert M. Teeter. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.