TSA critics question poll showing majority approve of airport security

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“For starters, look at what Gallup asked: Thinking now about the TSA, the government agency that handles security screening at U.S. airports, do you think the TSA is doing an excellent, good, only fair, or poor job [and h]ow effective do you think the TSA’s screening procedures are at preventing acts of terrorism on U.S. airplanes — extremely effective, very effective, somewhat effective, not too effective, or not effective at all,” the website said in a post Friday.

“That’s it, just two questions, plus demographic background information: age, sex, ethnicity, whether or not there is a child under 18 living at home, and how often the respondent has flown,” the post continued. “No one was asked whether the agency is too bloated, whether it wastes money, or whether TSA has too many criminals in its midst.”

TSA has said the Gallup poll is a validation of its efforts to protect U.S. airline passengers from the threat of potential terrorism.

“TSA employees work hard every day to protect the traveling public,” TSA Administrator John Pistole said in a statement after the Gallup poll was released. “This positive report reaffirms TSA’s commitment to carrying out these responsibilities with efficiency, integrity and in a customer friendly manner.” 

Members of Congress have frequently criticized the TSA for its security techniques, such as its pat-down hand searches and X-ray scanners, which critics have argued is an invasion of airport passengers’ privacy. The chairman of the House Transportation Security subcommittee questioned TSA's performance in a hearing just before Congress left for its traditional August recess last week.

"The majority of Americans do not support the government’s current approach, and when they hear that the people at TSA that are supposed to enforce and ensure their security are engaged in gross misconduct, it only makes matters worse," Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) said during the meeting.

"Stealing from checked luggage; accepting bribes from drug smugglers; sleeping or drinking while on duty. This kind of criminal behavior and negligence has contributed significantly to TSA's shattered public image," Rogers continued.

However, Gallup said this week that its poll findings showed "[T]he American public gives the TSA a generally good report card, with a slight majority rating its overall job performance in positive terms.

"The fact that Americans who fly have a slightly more positive opinion of the agency than those who haven't flown recently suggests that experience with the TSA at airports does not detract from this image and may enhance it," Gallup said in a news release announcing the TSA survey. "Opinions about the effectiveness of the TSA are mixed, although most Americans and U.S. air travelers say the procedures are at least somewhat effective at preventing terrorism."

The TSANewsblog website not convinced by the poll, however.

“Anyone who pays attention to political polling, by Gallup and others, knows that there is a difference between ‘all Americans’ and ‘registered voters’ and the even more precise ‘likely voters,” the website wrote on Friday. “This distinction raises a natural question: whom did Gallup survey when it asked about TSA? As I’ve said, their definition of ‘frequent fliers’ is somewhat flawed; but even so, that’s not who they targeted. They didn’t even ask plain old 'travelers.' Just adults, aged 18 or more, in the United States.

“In fact, almost half (48 percent) of the respondents in Gallup’s survey have not been on a plane in the last year,” the website continued. “Call me a snob, but I prefer to get my travel advice from people who travel. A lot.”