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Poll: Majority oppose body scans, nearly half seek alternative to flying

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010 13:26 EDT
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The use of backscatter x-ray machines to scan travelers’ bodies and new pat down procedures at airports will cause 48% of Americans to seek an alternative means of transportation, according to a Zogby International poll.

Of the 2,032 likely voters polled between November 19 and November 22, 61 percent said they oppose the use of body scanners and pat downs.

The findings of the Zogby poll strikingly contradict an earlier poll of 1,137 adults conducted by CBS News November 7 to November 10. That poll found only 15 percent of respondents were opposed to the use of body scanners at airport security checkpoints, with four out of five saying they’re in favor.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll of 514 adults conducted on November 21 found over half of respondents supported the use of body scanners and 70 percent supported the use of profiling at airports.

Another poll, conducted by USA TODAY/Gallup and published today, found that most travelers are bothered or angered by pat downs.

A growing number of people are concerned about invasions of privacy and possible health effects of new body scanners being used by the Transportation Security Agency (TSA).

“They say the risk is minimal, but statistically someone is going to get skin cancer from these x-rays,” Dr. Michael Love, who runs an x-ray lab at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said.

Those who choose to opt out of a body scan face an “enhanced” pat down procedure that has been described as nothing short of molestation.

Republicans and Independents are more opposed to the new body scans and pat downs than Democrats, with 69 percent of Republicans and 65 percent of Independents opposing them, compared to only 50 percent of Democrats.

The poll also found that men were slightly more opposed than women, with 63 percent of men and 60 percent of women opposing the TSA’s new checkpoint procedures.

In addition, 52 percent of respondents think the new security procedures will not prevent terrorist activity, 48 percent consider it a violation of privacy rights and 32 percent consider it to be sexual harassment.

“It is clear the majority of Americans are not happy with TSA and the enhanced security measures recently enacted,” said pollster John Zogby. “The airlines should not be happy with 42 percent of frequent flyers seeking a different mode of transportation due to these enhancements.”

The poll also found likely voters prefer body scans to TSA pat downs, 48 to 7 percent.

One traveler at Lindbergh Field was so fed up with the new procedures he stripped down to his underwear to avoid a pat down, NBC San Diego reported. He was arrested for refusing to put his clothes back on.

“TSA needs to see that I’m not carrying any weapons, explosives, or other prohibited substances, I refuse to have images of my naked body viewed by perfect strangers, and having been felt up for the first time by TSA the week prior, I was not willing to be molested again,” he said in a statement released by his attorney Sunday.

Many who are upset about the new body scanners and intrusive airport pat down procedure have decided to hold an “opt-out” protest on November 24 to show travelers how “the TSA treats law-abiding citizens” who refuse to be scanned.

The American Civil Liberties Union has received more than 600 complaints from passengers, a legislative counsel for the organization told the Associated Press.

“We all wish we lived in a world where security procedures at airports weren’t necessary,” John Pistole, the head of the TSA, said, “but that just isn’t the case.”

 
 
 
 
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