Most Americans see some value in the new full body scan machines in use at airports in the U.S., but many would like to limit their use to those individuals whom screeners believe may pose a threat, and NOT used on all passengers -- and certainly not on them, according to the latest Economist/YouGov Poll.
When the machines are described to respondents, and they are told their use might have discovered the Christmas Day underwear bomber before he passed through security, 68% say the machines should be used - but more than half that group say they should be used only on those individuals security screeners view as a threat. Just 31% would use the machines on all passengers. One in five Americans would not use them at all.
Many Americans admit that the use of full body scanners is justified in order to keep America safe. 44% say they are, while 35% say they are an invasion of privacy. There are differences by gender, age and party identification on this. Men are more likely than women to see the use of these machines as unjustified, younger adults are more concerned than older adults, and Republicans are more negative than Democrats.
A majority of Americans say the changes in airport security won't make flying any safer than it is now; just 30% think they will.
Most Americans don't want to be subject to the scan themselves: 55% admit they would be uncomfortable while 38% say they would not be uncomfortable about it. Men are less uncomfortable than women are about the scan (though a majority of men are still uncomfortable with it), and on this question there is little partisan difference - Democrats as well as Republicans find the full body scan and the naked image it projects uncomfortable.
How comfortable are you with undergoing a full body scan at an airport security checkpoint?
|Uncomfortable||Not Uncomfortable||Not sure|
When asked directly whether having a naked image of oneself seen by a TSA agent reviewing the full body scanner results, 43% find it unacceptable and 41% say it is acceptable. And by a margin of 43% to 39%, Americans say they are concerned about radiation coming from the scan.
Americans are more positive about airport security now than they were at the start of 2010. 63% of fliers say the screening procedures in place the last time they flew were about right, up 12 points from January. The percentage believing there were not tight enough has dropped from 38% then to only 14% today. In fact, today nearly one in four say screening procedures are TOO tight.
As they did in January, most Americans today favor current security measures. 64% support allowing only a single carry-on. 67% are fine with removing their shoes at the airport. 78% support multiple ID checks. And by 49% to 34%, Americans are willing to limit liquids carried on board to 3 ounces.
The new measures - both the scan and extended pat-downs DON'T get the same support. 41% favor full body scans, but 40% don't. And while 70% support the traditional pat down, 70% OPPOSE the extended pat downs, with same-sex TSA officials making contact with more private areas of the body.
Limiting passengers to a single carry-on bag Requiring travelers to remove their shoes at security checkpoints Not allowing more than 3 ounces of liquids Checking IDs multiple times Full body scanner machines that produce a detailed picture of travelers' bodies A traditional pat down An enhanced pat down which includes touching genitals and breasts
Do you favor or oppose the following security measures for air travel?
Limiting passengers to a single carry-on bag
Requiring travelers to remove their shoes at security checkpoints
Not allowing more than 3 ounces of liquids
Checking IDs multiple times
Full body scanner machines that produce a detailed picture of travelers' bodies
A traditional pat down
An enhanced pat down which includes touching genitals and breasts
Fortunately, most Americans won't have to deal with the security changes on Thanksgiving Weekend. 22% will spend at least one night away from home during the holiday, but most of those will travel by car, not airplane. And 21% of those interviewed say they have never flown.
Interested in more details about the poll? We have a tab report available now.
Image source: Flickr (Quinn Dombrowski)