"Grin and Bear It" Is Motto for Most Air Travelers

by Lydia Saad

Seven in 10 see new liquids ban as justified

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Most Americans appear content to accept the array of airline security measures put in place after 9/11 as the new normal in air travel. According to a recent USA Today/Gallup poll, three in four Americans consider today's airline security measures to be an effective part of the government's overall anti-terrorism strategy, and nearly as many believe these measures are here to stay. Just over half of Americans would favor new policies requiring Arab passengers to undergo more intensive security checks, but most would oppose banning all carry-on baggage.

The views of frequent air travelers (those who have flown three or more times in the past year) are generally not much different from those of infrequent travelers or even from the views of those who have not flown in the past year.

While Americans can debate the merits of potential new air travel restrictions, they doubt the current rules will ever be relaxed or eliminated. Rather, according to the Aug. 18-20 survey, 7 in 10 believe terrorism has permanently changed the rules for how Americans fly.

Asked about four possible measures that could be implemented to further increase airport security, Americans perceive that both stricter background checks for airport workers and stricter screening of checked luggage would be highly effective security procedures. (Two-thirds say each of these would be "very effective," while most others say they would be at least "somewhat effective.")

Americans are much less likely to say that intensive screening of Arabs (37%) or prohibiting all carry-on luggage (32%) would be very effective, but most say each of these would be at least somewhat effective.

Next, please tell me how effective each of the following security procedures would be as a means of preventing terrorist attacks in the United States -- very effective, somewhat effective, not too effective, or not effective at all? [RANDOM ORDER]

Very effective

Total effective

Total not effective

%

%

%

Conducting much stricter background checks for airport workers

67

92

6

Running all checked luggage through metal detectors and other screening devices

66

94

7

Requiring Arabs, including those who are U.S. citizens, to undergo special, more intensive security checks before boarding airplanes in the U.S.

37

70

27

Banning airline passengers from carrying on board any luggage including purses, computers, and briefcases

32

67

30

Last month, the U.S. government quickly instituted a new carry-on ban on nearly all liquids, lotions, and gels when it was discovered that terrorists allegedly planned on using liquid explosives carried in sports drink bottles to blow up several airplanes headed for the United States. Americans have embraced this ban, with 70% saying it was an appropriate response. Support is about the same among frequent fliers (68%).

A smaller percentage of Americans -- but still a slim majority of 53% -- say they would favor requiring Arabs, including those who are U.S. citizens, to undergo special, more intensive security checks before boarding airplanes in the United States. Forty-five percent oppose this. Opinion tilts against prohibiting airplane passengers from bringing any carry-on luggage -- including purses, computers, and briefcases -- on board. Just 41% are in favor of such a sweeping carry-on ban while 57% are opposed.

Frequent fliers and those who have not flown at all in the past year have similar reactions to a potential ban on all carry-on bags: about 4 in 10 of each group favors this proposal. By contrast, frequent fliers are much less likely than non-fliers to favor targeting Arabs for special security checks (46% vs. 61%, respectively).

Fear Higher, but Still Relatively Low

Americans' fear of air travel today is elevated compared to where it stood earlier this year, but is still lower than where it was in the first few months after 9/11. About a third of Americans (35%) now say they would be either very or somewhat afraid to fly if they had to get on a plane tomorrow. This is slightly lower than recorded fear levels in November 2001 and February 2002 (of 43% to 44%), but is up from the 27% fearful in March 2006.

To the extent that increased fear of flying since March can be attributed to the recently foiled plot to blow up several U.S. airplanes coming from London, it appears the news has not sparked intense fear. At the extremes, 10% today are "very afraid" to fly while 40% are "not afraid at all." In March a similar number were very afraid (9%) but many more were not afraid at all (53%). Almost all of the increased fear across this period is seen in the percentages "somewhat afraid" (from 18% to 25%) and "not very afraid" (from 18% to 24%).

Grumblings in Security Line Are the Exception

Air travelers can often be heard griping about policies that subject those who are unlikely to be terrorists, such as children and grandmothers, to intensive searching and shoe removal. However, when asked to name an existing security measure they think should be discontinued because it is not effective, only 20% of Americans can do so.

Chief among those named are the ban on carry-on liquids (6%), random searches of all citizens (6%), and intensive screening of shoes (4%). However, 70% of Americans would not suspend any existing security measures. A small number (2%) mention racial profiling or banning small sharp objects such as nail clippers (1%).

The only major difference between frequent fliers and non-fliers on this question is in the percentage mentioning liquids: 10% of those who have flown three or more times in the past year would eliminate that restriction, compared with 4% of those who have not flown.

Are there any security measures currently used in airports that you think should be stopped because they are not effective in preventing terrorist attacks? [Which measures do you think should be stopped?][OPEN-ENDED]

2006 Aug 18-20

%

Yes, should measures should be stopped

20^

(Banning of carrying liquids or gels)

(6)

(Random searching of citizens,
especially small children or the elderly)

(6)

(X-raying/Having to remove shoes)

(4)

(Racial profiling)

(2)

(Banning of nail clippers/small sharp objects)

(1)

(All of them)

(1)

(Other)

(3)

No, no measures should be stopped

70

No opinion

10

^ Percentages add to more than 20% due to multiple responses.

More generally, most Americans deny that the personal security checks they must undergo at airports cause them any annoyance. However, a substantial minority admits such checks do annoy them. A quarter of all Americans say that in the event they were traveling by plane, they would find it annoying to have to remove their shoes or belt before boarding. A similar number would find it annoying to have to dispose of any liquids or gels or to repack them in their checked baggage. More than a third (36%) would find it annoying to be touched in any way by security personnel searching for prohibited items. There are only minor differences (at most, 8 points) in reported annoyance between frequent fliers and the general public.

Perhaps combined with other factors, these annoyances result in nearly half of all Americans (46%) saying they would seriously consider alternative means of transportation if they were taking a trip that people usually take by plane. The rate of plane avoidance is naturally quite high among those who say they have not flown in the past year (62%), but even close to a third of frequent fliers say they would consider forgoing flying in order to avoid the hassles associated with air travel these days.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,001 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Aug. 18-20, 2006. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

22. If you had to fly on an airplane tomorrow, how would you describe your feelings about flying? Would you be -- very afraid, somewhat afraid, not very afraid, or not afraid at all?

Very
afraid

Somewhat
afraid

Not very
afraid

Not
afraid
at all

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2006 Aug 18-20

10

25

24

40

1

2006 Mar 10-12

9

18

18

53

1

2002 Feb 8-10

18

26

17

38

1

2001 Nov 26-27

17

26

18

38

1

23. Would you say the new security measures at airports around the country since the Sept. 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks have been an effective part of the government's overall strategy to prevent terrorism, or not?

Yes,
effective

No,
not effective

No
opinion

2006 Aug 18-20

77%

21

2

24. Are there any security measures currently used in airports that you think should be stopped because they are not effective in preventing terrorist attacks? [Which measures do you think should be stopped?][OPEN-ENDED]

2006 Aug 18-20

%

Yes, should measures should be stopped

20^

(Banning of carrying liquids or gels)

(6)

(Random searching of citizens, especially small children or the elderly)

(6)

(X-raying/Having to remove shoes)

(4)

(Racial profiling)

(2)

(Banning of nail clippers/small sharp objects)

(1)

(All of them)

(1)

(Other)

(3)

No, no measures should be stopped

70

No opinion

10

^ Percentages add to more than 20% due to multiple responses.

25. Do you think the Sept. 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks and reports of other planned attacks have permanently changed the rules for how Americans fly, or do you think at some point in the future the current rules could be relaxed or eliminated?

Have
permanently
changed the rules

Some rules
could be
relaxed/
eliminated

No
opinion

2006 Aug 18-20

71%

26

3

Q.26-27 SPLIT SAMPLED

26. Next, please tell me if you would favor or oppose each of the following as a means of preventing terrorist attacks in the United States. How about -- [random order]?

BASED ON 500 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A

A. Requiring Arabs, including those who are U.S. citizens, to undergo special, more intensive security checks before boarding airplanes in the U.S.

Favor

Oppose

No opinion

%

%

%

2006 Aug 18-20

53

45

2

2005 Jul 22-24

53

46

1

2001 Sep 14-15

58

41

1

B. Banning airline passengers from carrying on board any luggage including purses, computers, and briefcases

Favor

Oppose

No opinion

%

%

%

2006 Aug 18-20

41

57

3

2001 Sep 14-15

51

47

2

27. Next, please tell me how effective each of the following security procedures would be as a means of preventing terrorist attacks in the United States -- very effective, somewhat effective, not too effective, or not effective at all? [RANDOM ORDER]

BASED ON 501 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B

A. Requiring Arabs, including those who are U.S. citizens, to undergo special, more intensive security checks before boarding airplanes in the U.S.

Very
effective

Somewhat
effective

Not too
effective

Not
effective
at all

No
opinion

2006 Aug 18-20

37%

33

16

11

3

B. Banning airline passengers from carrying on board any luggage including purses, computers, and briefcases

Very
effective

Somewhat
effective

Not too
effective

Not
effective
at all

No
opinion

2006 Aug 18-20

32%

35

16

14

2

C. Running all checked luggage through metal detectors and other screening devices

Very
effective

Somewhat
effective

Not too
effective

Not
effective
at all

No
opinion

2006 Aug 18-20

66%

28

5

2

*

* Less than 0.5%

D. Conducting much stricter background checks for airport workers

Very
effective

Somewhat
effective

Not too
effective

Not
effective
at all

No
opinion

2006 Aug 18-20

67%

25

5

1

1

28. As you may know, new security requirements were put in place at U.S. airports after a terrorist plot was recently uncovered in London. Airline passengers are now prohibited from carrying most liquids or gels onto airplanes. Do you think this new requirement is an appropriate response, or does it go too far?

Appropriate
response

Goes too far

No opinion

2006 Aug 18-20

70%

29

1

29. Suppose you were taking a flight and had to submit to various security checks before boarding the airplane. Regardless of whether you think it is necessary, would you, personally, find each of the following to be annoying, or not? How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

A. Disposing of any liquids or gels or putting them into checked baggage

Yes,
annoying

No,
not annoying

No opinion

2006 Aug 18-20

23%

76

*

* Less than 0.5%

B. Removing your shoes and belt

Yes,
annoying

No,
not annoying

No opinion

2006 Aug 18-20

25%

74

*

* Less than 0.5%

C. Having an airport security agent touch you or your clothing as part of a search for prohibited items

Yes,
annoying

No,
not annoying

No opinion

2006 Aug 18-20

36%

64

*

* Less than 0.5%

30. Suppose you had to take a trip that people usually take by plane. In order to avoid the hassles associated with air travel these days, would you seriously consider using an alternative means of transportation, such as car, bus, or train, or would you probably fly?

Yes, would
consider
alternative
means

No, would
probably fly

No
opinion

2006 Aug 18-20

46%

53

1

Get Articles in Related Topics:


Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/24367/Grin-Bear-It-Motto-Most-Air-Travelers.aspx
Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030