Fear of War: Sacrifice civil liberties for more security?

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Fear of War

Click the graphic to read the entire Pew report.

National security and civil liberty are often at odds.

More of one means less of the other. Today, what’s your greater concern: that Obama’s latest anti-terror policies won’t go far enough to adequately protect the nation from external and internal threats, or that the policies will go too far in restricting civil liberties?

Since 2001, the Pew Research Center has asked questions about the tradeoff of security and liberty. In 2001, over half of Americans (55%) said that it would be necessary to give up some civil liberties to curb terrorism. Just over a third (35%) disagreed. My surveys of the greater Detroit region in 2003 revealed the same pattern: 55% of the general population was willing to give up some civil liberties to curb terrorism. But I also found out that 47% of Arab Americans were also willing to do so.

In the year since, a majority of Americans have felt that it’s not necessary to give up civil liberties to curb terrorism. The peak was 2009, when 65% said so.

I predict a reversal, given the high level of fear that Americans now have of becoming victims of terrorism. The fact that some English-speaking Europeans and Americans have joined the ranks of the jihadists—and could return to do harm at home—is a key reason why we will see much more concern about beefing up security, and much less concern about government overreach and intrusion into the lives of private citizens.

How willing are you to give up civil liberties for more safety and security?

Have recent events persuaded you to emphasize security more than before?

Do you think it will be necessary to infringe on civil liberties to curb terrorism at home and abroad?

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  1. Debra Darvick says

    Lawmakers will work to convince us that it is necessary to give
    up personal liberties to curb terrorism. And I doubt that will
    contribute to our country’s safety from those committed to
    destroying us and the Western world.