Americans Favor Video Surveillance in Public Places—But Not Infringements on Civil Liberties

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Having concluded that terrorism is now a part of life, Americans strongly support the placement of video cameras in public places, according to two new polls conducted in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing.


But at the same time, a clear majority of people are nervous about the government going too far with its counterterrorism policies and compromising civil liberties.


A poll (pdf) conducted by ORC International for Time and CNN shows that 81% of Americans support surveillance cameras in public locations. Likewise, 78% of respondents to a New York Times/CBS News survey endorsed cameras on streets and public areas.


The two polls also revealed that people in the U.S. feel terrorism is here to stay, with 90% in the NYT/CBS survey saying the country will live with the risk of terrorism indefinitely. Meanwhile, only 32% of those polled for Time/CNN believe the federal government can prevent all major attacks by terrorists.


But the results of the two polls diverge somewhat when it comes to the importance of protecting civil liberties.


According to the NYT/CBS poll, 66% said information on how to build bombs should be banned from the Internet, even if it constitutes a form of censorship.


In the Time/CNN survey, 61% said they are more concerned about the government enacting new anti-terrorism policies that restrict civil liberties as opposed to 31% who are more concerned about the government failing to enact strong new anti-terrorism policies.

Forty-nine percent said they were not willing to sacrifice some civil liberties to curb terrorism, while 40% were willing.


A majority in the Time/CNN poll supported law enforcement monitoring of Internet discussions in chat rooms and other forums, but opposed expanded government monitoring of cell phones and email.


Representative of the opinion of many of the poll respondents was a remark made to The New York Times by Kath Buffington, a retired teacher from Rochester, New York: “I don’t have a problem with cameras as long as they are public. But wiretapping without a warrant goes too far, now that the immediate 9/11 crisis is over.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Poll: Americans More Concerned About Civil Liberties In Wake Of Boston Bombing (by Zeke J. Miller, Time)

Poll Finds Strong Acceptance for Public Surveillance (by Mark Landler and Dalia Sussman, New York Times)

Results of Poll of Americans on Terror Threats (New York Times and CBS News)

CNN / TIME / ORC Poll (pdf)

L.A. Police Crank up Surveillance Cameras to Spy on 450,000 Residents (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

Public Buses in Many U.S. Cities Will Soon Be Monitoring Private Conversations for the Government (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)    

Surveillance Cameras Don’t Reduce Violent Crime (AllGov)


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