Poll: Vast Majority Of Americans Okay With Body Image Scanners

All the media coverage of TSA screening complaints doesn’t seem to have had much of an impact on public opinion so far:

Americans have differing views on two potentially inconvenient and invasive practices that airports could implement to uncover potential terrorist attacks, a new CBS News poll shows. Americans overwhelmingly approve of the use of full-body digital x-ray machines – a new technology in use at some airports in the U.S. Most, meanwhile, do not approve of racial or ethnic profiling – a practice not in place.

The numbers:

Should airports use full body X-Ray machines?

  • Yes — 81%
  • No — 15%

Is ethnic profiling at airports justified?

  • Yes — 37%
  • No — 52%

An interesting data point, don’t you agree?

FILED UNDER: National Security, Public Opinion Polls, Quick Takes, Terrorism, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Dean says:

    Wonder what the results would have been if the question was, “Are you in favor full-body scans at airports of yourself and your family?”

  2. Linda says:

    So, I’m wondering just who they polled to get these results?

  3. Pamela S. says:

    I am not surprised by this statistic – although that does not mean I give it any credence. I would be very interested to see what the approval numbers are of people who actually fly, especially those that have been through the scanning process. I suspect that as more people go through the new procedures, and more people send their young children through the procedures, the disapproval numbers will start to go up.
    Not to mention, the research studies about the health effects of those machines are JUST starting to come, and the results aren’t good. People in the public are largely unaware of just what exactly the machines and the groping entail.

  4. Jay says:

    I’d like to see the same poll taken amongst those who utilize airline travel regularly. I would imagine the difference would be pretty stark.

  5. PD Shaw says:

    I agree w/ Jay. About one in three Americans fly in a given year.

  6. jimmycrackscorn says:

    POLL TRAVELERS AT AN AIRPORT…not some phone bank of stupid old people who still have a landline…GROW UP TSA, AMERICANS ARE NOT THE TERRORISTS!!!!

  7. mantis says:

    GROW UP TSA, AMERICANS ARE NOT THE TERRORISTS

    First of all, you may not realize this, but a lot of people who fly in the United States are not American citizens. Second, you also seem not to realize that there have been, and will be, American terrorists.

    Anyway, I second some of the other comments above. A proper poll would have surveyed actual air travelers, and asked if they think they should personally submit to full body scans and/or TSA perv groping activities, not just whether airports should use them (Sure, but not on me! I’m not a terrorist, etc.). I’d also like to see a question as to whether travelers would feel comfortable with their children being subjected to same.

  8. Tano says:

    “About one in three Americans fly in a given year.”

    But over several years I bet it is a strong majority. Anyway, I see no reason to suspect that the numbers would be any different for those who fly.

    I and another family member took separate round trip flights over the past couple of weeks. So that is 4 encounters with security. One encounter resulted in a scan – the other three did not. I don’t know what the overall proportion is, but it seems like a small percentage of people even are subject to the scan. And I saw no one who had any problem with it, nor could I or any passenger see any of the images. I image we could spend all day at any major airport, watching the security line, and not see a single whiff of outrage on anyones part.

    So where does this expectation come from that anyone except a few bloggers are bothered by this?

  9. mantis says:

    But over several years I bet it is a strong majority

    Based on what, exactly?

    Anyway, I see no reason to suspect that the numbers would be any different for those who fly.

    You see no reason why people who fly might have a different opinion on security procedures than those who don’t fly? Seriously?

    And I saw no one who had any problem with it, nor could I or any passenger see any of the images.

    Well, if passengers cannot see the images of themselves in the scanner, and aren’t aware of what the TSA people are seeing, maybe that has something to do with the fact that more people don’t have problems with it. Hmmm.

    I image we could spend all day at any major airport, watching the security line, and not see a single whiff of outrage on anyones part.

    I doubt it.

    So where does this expectation come from that anyone except a few bloggers are bothered by this?

    Story after story keep emerging about people who have have been bothered by these machines or being groped by TSA workers. Those people aren’t bloggers. I’m not a blogger. You seem to think that your opinion is shared by everyone, just because you think it’s right. Sure you’re not a wingnut?

  10. Drew says:

    I could fix his all in a nanosecond.

    Of course you’d need two lines: men’s and women’s. But all TSA would have to be recruited from Hollywood stars and starlets not quite to that first movie.

    Men get the starlet’s line. Man, I’d have a fire cracker in my undies. Goin’ through OHare Airport……….”no, a little lower, now up. no lower. Oh, THAT? Yeah, thet’s a fire cracker, of course that thing you were searching a second ago……..”

    I’m thinkin’ there would be very few complaints……

    nyuk, nyuk, nyuk……..

  11. Tano says:

    “You seem to think that your opinion is shared by everyone, just because you think it’s right.”

    Nah, thats a bit of an exaggeration. I think that my opinion is shared by,,,,oh, around 81% of the people – y’know, as the empirical data indicate.

    ‘Story after story keep emerging about people who have have been bothered by these machines or being groped by TSA workers.”

    Yeah, I have seen two or three myself. How many people fly? I dont have time to do the research, but I recall seeing that there are around 30,000 commercial airline flights a day. Thats probably around 2 million individual flights. What percentage of these 2m have complained about anything?
    Even if my numbers are off, you get the picture….

    “You see no reason why people who fly might have a different opinion on security procedures than those who don’t fly?”

    In theory there might be. I just don’t see any real evidence, given my own flying experience, or the numbers of stories relative to the number of flyers.

  12. mantis says:

    I think that my opinion is shared by,,,,oh, around 81% of the people – y’know, as the empirical data indicate.

    Again, how many of them fly, and how many of them have seen or felt what the TSA see and feel, and how many of them would like those procedures used on them once they are aware of the details? The polls haven’t answered those questions. They are pertinent.

    Even if my numbers are off, you get the picture….

    Here was your previous statement.

    So where does this expectation come from that anyone except a few bloggers are bothered by this?

    I pointed out that it’s not just a few bloggers. You then moved the goalposts around. Good work, wingnut!

    In theory there might be. I just don’t see any real evidence, given my own flying experience, or the numbers of stories relative to the number of flyers.

    So you point to an obviously flawed poll, and declare it to be definitive. I point out that there are probably differences in opinion between flyers and non-flyers (as well as between those well-informed and those not, and between those considering the procedures for themselves instead of just whether or not they should be in use in airports), and your response is “maybe, in theory, but my anecdotal experience says no.” Well, my anecdotal experience says the poll you’re using as a crutch is bullshit.

  13. Jay says:

    “So where does this expectation come from that anyone except a few bloggers are bothered by this?”

    Does the largest union of American pilots consist of just a few bloggers?

  14. ratufa says:

    This isn’t surprising at all. Answers to poll questions are heavily dependent on wording and how closely people have been paying attention to a particular issue. If you re-worded the question as, “Should airports use full body X-Ray machines even it they posed a health risk to frequent fliers?” or asked people after they’d read an article, with photos, about the privacy issues, I suspect you’d get different results.

  15. John Burgess says:

    I’m starting out on travel tomorrow that will give me four changes to be scanned. I’ll let you know how it turns out. As I don’t object to scanning in the least, I’d be one of those driving the approval rating up, even among frequent fliers.

  16. Tano says:

    “So you point to an obviously flawed poll, and declare it to be definitive. ”

    I don’t see it as obviously flawed. Nor did I declare it definitive. It is the only empirical data I have seen on the question. You tell me – how should I weight this poll in my calculations relative to such other trustworthy measures as ……your gut feeling. Or the gut feeling of other people who comment here?

    “I point out that there are probably differences in opinion between flyers and non-flyers”

    Which, as the saying goes, you pull out of your butt. Seriously – why should anyone give credence to what you assert, with no evidence whatsoever, is probably the case? Steve Taylor has made the point, in his new post, that by his logic, it may probably be true that those who fly are MORE concerned with airport security being as stringent as possible, given that it is their asses on the line. Since we are dealing with a question that has no scientific polling done on it, and we are just speculating, I must say that Steven’s logic seems far more compelling to me than does yours.

    “…those considering the procedures for themselves instead of just whether or not they should be in use in airports…:”

    Yeah, they must consider the procedures for themselves. But they also must consider the consequences for themselves if the procedures are not done, and a terrorist gets through.

    “Well, my anecdotal experience says the poll you’re using as a crutch is bullshit.”

    Well, I wouldn’t call it a crutch, since I have been arguing this point in several threads now, long before the poll was posted. And if the poll is bs, then we have no basis for any conclusion – your speculation is not somehow elevated to a higher level of probability by the possible existence of any problems with the poll.

  17. mantis says:

    Seriously – why should anyone give credence to what you assert, with no evidence whatsoever, is probably the case?

    Because they realize that public opinion on this topic is based on very little information, and as more people experience a hand in their crotch at the airport, it will change. Ask the people who have been through this how they feel about it, and you’ll get different results in a survey. How you could possibly think this isn’t the case is beyond me.

  18. […] and watch the news, one would think Americans are universally opposed to these measures, but a recent poll finds these searches are quite popular–81% of American say they should be used. This despite […]

  19. Tano says:

    ” How you could possibly think this isn’t the case is beyond me.”

    I went through the scanner recently. It never occurred to me that I should be outraged. So I didn’t need the pat down. If I had, then I would have expected it to be done competently – y’know, just like a cop would do. If anything, I would have gotten upset at a half-assed pat-down (nice pun, if I say so myself!).

    What is the point of doing the pat-down if the screener is instructed to stop well before meeting any resistance? Might as well just not do it at all. So then what? Forbid people from getting through security unless they go thru the scanner? Oh, but the agents are all pervs, sorry, I forgot.

    So what is the bottom line at the end of all this? The intelligence community shall have the final responsibility to intercept all plastic explosives before they reach the airport. And if that wall is breached, well, I guess we just accept the result?

    My guess, and thats what it is in the absence of good polling, is that most flyers would feel the same way as me. Very few would object to the scanners. And of those who might fear they are getting nuked, and opt out, I suspect most would understand the need to do a competent pat down. It doesn’t take a leap of imagination to realize that if they let you through in a careless way, then they might be letting someone else through too.

  20. mantis says:

    I went through the scanner recently.

    Hope you enjoy seeing yourself on the internet.

    If I had, then I would have expected it to be done competently – y’know, just like a cop would do.

    Poorly trained TSA workers making $8 – 10/hour are not cops, and if you expect them to do anything competently, you have a rude awakening coming.

    What is the point of doing the pat-down if the screener is instructed to stop well before meeting any resistance?

    What is the point of doing the pat-down at all? Can you answer that? Why was my mother groped at the airport on Saturday? She went through the scanner. She had and did nothing suspicious. She flies all the time (well, she did, anyway. That may change). Yet she still got a TSA agent’s hand up her crotch.

    Oh, but the agents are all pervs, sorry, I forgot.

    I never said all of them, but we certainly have a system that caters to them.

    So what is the bottom line at the end of all this? The intelligence community shall have the final responsibility to intercept all plastic explosives before they reach the airport. And if that wall is breached, well, I guess we just accept the result?

    Somehow the Israelis have excellent security without porno machines or groping grannies. If you think there are no alternatives to our system, you’re an idiot.

    My guess, and thats what it is in the absence of good polling, is that most flyers would feel the same way as me. Very few would object to the scanners.

    Your guess, based on what? I know three people who have been subjected to back scatter & pat-downs in the past two weeks, and all three are supremely pissed off.

    It doesn’t take a leap of imagination to realize that if they let you through in a careless way, then they might be letting someone else through too.

    They already are letting us through in a careless way. They’re just taking nude pictures and groping us while they do it.

  21. […] numbers are down from the 80% support that body image scanners had in a poll taken before the controversy erupted, which is probably a reflection of the almost non-stop negative coverage that has come out about TSA […]