Do Americans really prioritize security over freedom?
Jake Tapper of CNN raised eyebrows recently by claiming that "the American people, honestly, want security over freedom."
That would seem to be a big departure from the ideals of, say, Benjamin Franklin, who wrote that "those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
And is Tapper's claim even true? Do the American people prioritize security over freedom? The most recent evidence doesn't support Tapper's claim.
Since the 9/11 attacks, Gallup has periodically conducted polls on the question of whether or not the government should violate civil liberties in order to take steps to prevent terrorism.
In the most recent poll, in August 2011, 71 percent of respondents said that they thought the government should only take steps that do not violate civil liberties, while just 25 percent thought the government should take any steps necessary, even if that means violating civil liberties.
Even in January 2002, just a few months after the 9/11 attacks, only 49 percent of Americans thought the government should take any steps necessary. But over the last decade, every time Gallup has asked the question, a majority have chosen protecting civil liberties over enhanced security.
Other polls have shown similar results.
A Pew poll in August of this year found that 47 percent thought the government had gone too far in restricting civil liberties compared to 35 percent who thought the government had not gone far enough to protect the country. In 2010, 58 percent thought the government had not gone far enough, with just 27 percent saying it had gone too far.
And a Quinnipiac poll in July of this year found that 45 percent thought the government had gone too far in restricting civil liberties, compared to 40 percent who thought the government had not gone far enough to protect the country. This was a major shift from 2010, when Quinnipiac asked the same question and found that 25 percent thought the government had gone too far, while 63 thought it had not gone far enough.
The most recent polls which, remember, came during a rash of revelations about invasive NSA domestic spying practices, point to the fact that Americans are getting less hawkish about national security, and want more freedom, not more security measures.