A recent Reason-Rupe survey asked respondents to use their own words to describe their perception of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Responses ranged from very negative to very positive. Negative comments typically mentioned a perception of TSA incompetence and overstepping proper authority; some were simply angry with the TSA. Most of those with positive views generally mentioned the TSA doing a "good job" while some had positive views tempered with reservations about TSA authority or effectiveness.
Overall, 43 percent of Americans have negative views of the TSA, 38 percent have positive views, 8 percent are neutral, and 11 percent do not have an opinion. NSON Opinion Strategy conducted the poll and coded responses into the following categories.
The Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, was created to handle airport security after the 9/11 attacks. What word best describes your view of the TSA?
Negative views toward the TSA appear to serve as an indicator of Americans' confidence in government security agencies to do their jobs properly. Negative attitudes toward the TSA translate into skepticism toward the Department of Homeland Security, openness to reform, and concerns over a loss of privacy and freedom. These Americans are likely more attuned to the costs associated with security measures because they are not convinced the costs are worth it. (Read more about the poll's results on US security measures here, here, here.)
First, 72 percent of those with positive views of the TSA are very or somewhat confident that the Department of Homeland Security will prevent another terrorist attack on U.S. soil, whereas only 42 percent with negative views of the TSA agree. Instead a majority of those with negative views of the TSA are slightly or not at all confident.
Second, 67 percent of Americans with negative views of the TSA are not confident that the TSA would catch a terrorist trying to board an airplane. In contrast, 70 percent of Americans with positive views of the TSA believe it would catch a terrorist trying to board an airplane.
Ninety three percent of Americans with positive views of the TSA believe the TSA has made air travel safer, compared with only 48 percent of those with negative views. This might explain why 52 percent of those with negative views of the TSA favor replacing TSA airport security screeners with screeners from private companies, compared with 30 percent among those with positive views of the TSA.
Differences also emerge between those with positive and negative views of the TSA on general attitudes regarding security, freedom, and privacy. Seventy nine percent of those with positive views of the TSA believe we are safer now compared to less than half among those with negative views of the TSA. A slight majority of those with positive views of the TSA believe we have less personal freedom now, compared to 70 percent of those with negative views of the TSA. Yet both groups overwhelmingly agree we have less privacy now, although this number is substantially higher among those with negative views of the TSA. An astounding 95 percent of Americans with positive views of the TSA believe today's security measures may be inconvenient but are generally worth it, compared to 68 percent among those with negative views of the TSA. Responses flip between the groups when asked if we have given up too much freedom and privacy in the name of security: 67 percent of those skeptical of the TSA agree compared to 41 percent of those favorable of the TSA.
Perceptions of the TSA also correlate with ones' background, demographics, and frequency of travel. Americans who have negative views of the TSA flew somewhat more often than those with positive or neutral views of the TSA. This is statistically significant at the .10 level. Men, older people, Caucasians, higher income, higher education, private-sector workers are more likely to have negative views of the TSA. Among political groups, libertarians, conservatives, Independent-leaning Republicans, and Tea Party supporters are the least likely to have favorable views of the TSA. Democrats and communitarians are the most likely to have positive views. Interestingly, once regular Republicans are separated out from Tea Partiers and Independent-leaning Republicans, more have positive views of the TSA than negative. Moreover, libertarians have by far much more disparate opinion on the TSA than conservatives.
Click here for full survey results.
The Reason-Rupe Q3 2011 poll collected a nationally representative sample of 1200 respondents, aged 18 and older from all 50 states and the District of Columbia using live telephone interviews from August 9th-18th 2011. The margin of sampling error for this poll is ± 3 percent. The margin of error for the GOP presidential race numbers is ± 4.79%. Interviews were conducted with respondents using both landline (790) and mobile phones (410). Landline respondents were randomly selected within households based on the adult who had the most recent birthday. Sample was weighted by gender, age, ethnicity, and Census region, based on the most recent US Census data. The sampling frame included landline and mobile phone numbers generated using Random Digit Dialing (RDD) methods and randomly selected numbers from a directory-listed sample. Clickhere for full methodological details. NSON Opinion Strategy conducted the poll's fieldwork. View full methodology.
Start your day with Reason. Get a daily brief of the most important stories and trends every weekday morning when you subscribe to Reason Roundup.