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Poll finds 61% oppose new airport security measures

November 23, 2010 | 11:41 am

TSA searches at O'Hare (AP) On the eve of one of the nation's busiest travel days, a poll has found that 61% of likely voters oppose the newly enhanced security measures at the country's airports.

The poll by Zogby International of 2,032 likely voters also found that 48% said they would probably seek alternatives to flying because of the new measures.

Airport security has become a topic of heated debate, particularly since Nov. 1, when the Transportation Security Administration implemented a more aggressive pat-down search technique at security checkpoints.

Since an attempted bombing on Dec. 25, 2009, the TSA has expanded the use of full-body image scanners that use low levels of radiation to create what looks like a nude image of the screened passenger to detect hidden weapons or contraband.

A TSA official said the agency was adding about 60 scanners a month at the nation's airports, with a goal of installing 500 machines by the end of 2010.

TSA officials said the scanners and the new pat-down technique were used on only a small percentage of passengers. Most travelers will be screened using traditional metal detectors and X-ray machines.

But privacy rights groups, including the ACLU, have objected to the new measures, comparing the pat-down procedures to a "groping."

The Zogby poll, taken online Nov. 19-22, seems to indicate a change in public opinion over the last few weeks. A CBS News telephone poll taken Nov. 7-10 found that 81% of Americans questioned said they approved of the use of the full-body scanners at airports. The CBS poll did not ask about the new pat-down search techniques.

Of those polled by Zogby, 52% said the enhanced security measures would not prevent terrorist activities and nearly half (48%) said the measures violated passenger privacy rights. Another 32% said they considered the full-body scans and pat-down search procedures to be sexual harassment.

"It's clear the majority of Americans are not happy with TSA and the enhanced security measures recently enacted," pollster John Zogby said in a statement.

-- Hugo Martin

Photo: A TSA officer screens a passenger at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. Credit: Associated Press