This week’s terror attack on “Charlie Hebdo,” a satirical newspaper in France, raises once again worldwide concerns about security. Western leaders vowed that the attacks would not undermine freedom of expression. But it’s likely that journalists and writers will feel less free to express themselves, and that the public will call for more security—even if it means less freedom.
As we enter 2015, are you willing to trade freedom for more security?
This week, we considered several themes that will likely dominate 2015: any hope for political progress, democracy without religion, the end of traditional marriage, and immigration reform. Today, we consider freedom versus security—a topic that is front and center once again, due to the tragedy in Paris.
Freedom of expression and national security are two of the 10 core values I documented in four national surveys and write about in United America. As core values, a very large majority of Americans endorse these 10 values and feel strongly about them. Support cuts across demographic, religious, and political lines.
In these surveys, I also asked explicitly about the value of trading freedom for more security. Many Americans said they were willing to do so, but many disagreed. If I ran a survey today, I’m certain that many more—perhaps a majority—of Americans would say that they are willing to give up freedom to escape terror attacks like the one in France.
The pendulum swings back and forth between security and freedom, as NBC/WSJ polls have shown over the years. After 9/11, a majority of Americans “worried that the government wouldn’t go far enough to monitor the activities of potential terrorists.” Opinion swung the other way in 2013, when we learned via Edward Snowden that the government was conducting mass surveillance of its citizens. A majority of Americans then said that “they were more worried about the government violating privacy rights.”
As we enter 2015, are you willing to give up freedom of expression and privacy for more security?
Has your opinion changed this week?
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