Most Arizonans are so anxious to keep terrorists off flights that they're willing to be patted down at the airport and even go through scanners that show pretty much everything, a new statewide survey shows.
Pollster Earl de Berge said that of the people he questioned who actually take commercial flights, 74 percent said they support full-body scans that can see through clothing. These devices, now deployed at only a handful of airports, are designed to detect hidden items that might pose a security threat.
But the photos that have been made available to the media and the public also show that the scanners can perform what might be considered a virtual strip search.
Despite that, the survey done for the Behavior Research Center actually showed more acceptance of scanners than the alternative of a pat-down at airport security. But, unlike the scanner question, de Berge said he found some differences between the sexes: While 71 percent of women are OK with pat-downs, that feeling is shared by only 58 percent of men.
He said the results of both questions are not surprising, with all indications being that people are willing to accept infringements to ensure that terrorists are not boarding airliners.
"The incursion into their privacy is not viewed as a value less than what they're receiving in terms of safety," de Berge said.
It is for that same reason, de Berge said, that two-thirds of travelers said they have no problem with the existing restrictions that limit passengers to liquids, creams and lotions in carry-on luggage in containers of no more than three ounces.
But de Berge said there would be outright rebellion if the Transportation Security Administration tries to keep travelers from having any liquids at all. He said just 36 percent of those questioned would back a total ban.
He noted, though, that acceptance of new restrictions is closely linked to age: More than half of those 55 and older were willing to give up carrying all liquids; the margin dropped to just 43 percent for those 35 to 54, and 13 percent from those younger.
That still leaves the question: Why are people willing to accept the full-body scans? The way de Berge sees it, it's not like everyone in line actually gets to view the image.
"Everybody else is trying to get through the lines, too," he said. "Nobody's paying attention to you."
The survey results come from a question asked last month of 800 adult heads of households, with the percentages within the questions reflecting only the responses of the 45 percent of those who actually took commercial flights last year. It has a margin of error of 4.5 percent.
Percent of flyers who support certain security measures:
- X-rays that inspect all luggage - 96 percent
- Full-body scans that can see through clothing - 74 percent
- Full-body pat-downs to detect foreign objects - 65 percent
- Prohibiting passengers from carrying liquids, creams and pastes in containers larger than three ounces - 66 percent
- Prohibiting passengers from carrying all liquids, creams and pastes - 36 percent
Source: Behavior Research Center