Posted: 5/20/2002 11:13:33 PM EST
Tastes good. Mmmm good. Good for you. Good for me.
Researchers Mull Civil Liberties
By WILL LESTER
Associated Press Writer
May 19, 2002, 1:19 PM EDT
ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. -- When feeling threatened, Americans have been willing to give up some personal freedoms over the past half century, public opinion researchers suggest, and that has carried over during the current terrorism threat.
The Bush administration is trying to encourage people to return to their normal lives, while also warning about possible terrorist attacks.
On Sunday, Vice President Dick Cheney said that the chance of more al-Qaida attacks against U.S. targets is "almost a certainty," and he advised Americans to stay vigilant.
Michael Traugott, a researcher with the University of Michigan, said his work has shown that Americans have not regained their sense of security since Sept. 11.
"That's going to take a long time, and this is a difficult thing for the administration, trying to do two conflicting things at the same time," he said. "They're trying to help Americans feel better and they are continually talking about the need for vigilance and staying on alert."
This "is a confusing and confounding message for the American people," said Traugott, who is among the researchers attending the annual meeting of the American Association for Public Opinion Research over the weekend.
"As long as this deterioration and personal sense of safety and security exists, we're in some jeopardy about the erosion of our civil liberties," he said.
Opinion polls after the attacks have suggested the public is willing to trade some civil liberties for more personal security.
In polling early this year, six in 10 respondents said the administration had handled the situation of civil liberties just about right and an additional 23 percent said the administration had not gone far enough.
[b]Just over half said it will be necessary to give up some civil liberties for the government to curb terrorism.[/b]
Harvard researcher Robert Blendon said the trade-off of civil liberties for personal security is nothing new in a time of conflict.
He and Harvard colleague John Benson presented research at the Florida meeting that offered some historical perspective on civil liberties.
They said that while civil liberties have broad public support, the public will support substantial limits on those freedoms when there are serious threats, either at home or from overseas.
They said support for civil liberties increases when the threat recedes.
Their report cited the decline in support for civil liberties after Pearl Harbor and during the height of the Cold War.
But they note the support for the rights of minority communities such as Arab-Americans is far higher now than support for the rights of Japanese-Americans during World War II, when many were interned in camps through much of the war.
Blendon noted at the conference that "there has been a sea change in attitudes" about civil liberties after Sept. 11, and that there has been broader support than in the past for ceding some personal freedoms, probably because of the severity of the terrorist threat.
The public has some underlying concerns about those freedoms, even as it says it is willing to give some up -- at least temporarily.
In one poll this year, about two-thirds said they were at least somewhat concerned about losing civil liberties.
The continued threat to personal security means civil liberties should be monitored, Traugott said.
He said: "We can't say whether this is a once-in-a-lifetime event."
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