back to article SHOCK: Poll shows Americans think TSA is highly effective

Forget what you've heard in the news. According to a new Gallup poll, the majority of Americans think the Transportation Security Administration, which handles security screening at US airports, is doing just fine, "despite recent negative press." The survey, which was published on Wednesday, asked a sample of 1,014 randomly …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I like how excellent (13%) is being grouped with good (41%) to come to the conclusion of "highly effective" and an above 50% figure.

    1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

      Does it really matter what the American public thinks?

      The majority of Americans think the Earth is less than 7000 years old and that humans and dinosaurs coexisted.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Does it really matter what the American public thinks?

        We have the Comedy Group - called "The Chaser" in Australia who did a number of videos of "stupid Americans" - mostly ad-hoc interviews on the streets with clueless "dumb fucks", who have no idea where Kentucky Fried Chicken comes from, or that Australia is part of George Bush's Axis of Evil... or that something like 2/3rds of American's can't find the USA on a world map.....

        But hey - these types are everywhere...... try living in country Australia....

        But when a guy from America, does the same subject, based upon stats and general research.... and his more choice input includes comments like "We don't need town hall meetings, we need study hall meetings" etc...

        This is a real fucking eye opener.

        Real Time With Bill Maher - Americans Are Stupid

        1. TAJW

          Re: Does it really matter what the American public thinks?

          Umm ... trust me...if you are watching Bill Maher, you aren't getting a real picture of Americans. Sadly, Maher, and most other media, spend lots of time finding mentally challenged people and then making a big deal of displaying them in public.

          Most Americans don't have a great picture of the intricacies of what is occuring in other countries, but then it's rare to have any reasonable media coverage of it, it does not however, mean they are stupid. I travel throughout the world quite a bit and you would be surprised at the warped ideas folks from other countries have about Americans.

          Some of us take the time to monitor to monitor worldwide events through print and the Internet, but it's very difficult to have in depth knowledge of every country in the least not and maintain a job, family life and relationships.

          So you will always have someone who knows 'more' and will point at the poor stupid fellow who doesn't know the President of Uganda's brother is also the General of the Army and bought 30 million dollars worth of defective helicopters from a former Eastern Bloc nation....getting a huge kickback in the process....or some other detail of some country in the world.

          People point to this and trumpet the failings of the American public to be aware of the world around them.

          Keep going, though, eventually you will tear us colonials up enough that we'll believe we're inferior.

      2. John A Blackley

        Re: Does it really matter what the American public thinks?

        which is interesting because the majority of Brits seem to have no idea what the majority of Americans are like - but, hey, that doesn't stop them from opening their ignorant gobs and rattling their tonsils.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's the herd mentality of the above average underachievers.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Results weren't nearly as impressive from people who remember what the word 'freedom' means.

    1. asdf


      >who remember what the word 'freedom' means.

      Yeah too bad the Baby Boomers who remember are the ones that sold it all away so they could get theirs. Who cares about the grandkids?

  3. Erik N.

    I always remember this about my fellow citizens: I know what the stupidity of the average American is and that half of them are dumber than that.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    touch my privates stranger

    touch them

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: touch my privates stranger

      I am all for chicks in uniforms donning the rubber glove and giving me the "bad boy" rough treatment - of the full body cavity searches.

      Elbow length gloves are best.

      Praise jesus and god bless America!

  5. Eddy Ito

    Wonderful play

    So what they are really saying is that the actors playing in the security theater are good enough to impress the main audience regardless of what the critics think.

    @Erik N., what's the joke alert icon for? The next time you're home sick you can see that proof is easy enough to find by turning on the TV in the middle of the day, any channel will do. Cheers, citizen.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Feeling like the devils advocate here, but they must be doing something right otherwise we'd have had repeats of past problems.

    There's not yet a shortage of loonies as recent events have shown.

    But downvote at will, I'll understand.

    1. Darryl

      Instead of a downvote, an analogy:

      Nasrudin was throwing handfuls of crumbs around his house.

      "What are you doing?" someone asked him.

      "Keeping the tigers away."

      "But there are no tigers in these parts."

      "That's right. Effective, isn't it?"

      1. Euripides Pants

        I stopped wearing polyester leisure suits in 1974 and we haven't had any nuclear wars....

    2. jake Silver badge

      @AC 01:23

      You type: "they must be doing something right otherwise we'd have had repeats of past problems.", and then go on to comment: "There's not yet a shortage of loonies as recent events have shown.".

      Do you not see the discord in your thoughts?

      In the Western World, Security Theater doesn't work. Never has, never will. In a free society, loonies abound (except in Canada, where nutters abound and Loonies are scarce ... ).

    3. hplasm


      "There's not yet a shortage of loonies as recent events have shown."

      As 'recent events' include this survey, I agree.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Funny, not clever

      There are many jokes about this peculiar form of mental self-delusion. My favourite:


      How do elephants hide?

      Upside down in bowls of custard.

      But I've never seen an elephant upside down in a bowl of custard.

      Yes, that proves how well it works!

    5. Suburban Inmate

      Uh huh. Remeber when the 100ml liquids malarkey came in? The moment I heard that I said "OK make a high explosive from liquids." which I already knew to be possible.

      About 3 years later a program on telly wheeled out that whiskery old explosives bloke to explain so.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Remeber when the 100ml liquids malarkey came in?"

        Is that the one where the defendants were found not guilty (or innocent, I can't remember) by the judiciary, after having been hanged, drawn, and quartered by the media and the official propaganda machine?

      2. Nigel 11

        But is there such a thing as a drinkable high explosive? I don't believe so.

        I still think that they could safely allow a bottle of water (say up to two litres) provided the passenger takes a drink from it at the security checkpoint. The reason they don't has everything to do with increasing the profits of the air-side vending outlets, and nothing to do with security.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yeah yeah it's all pointless yada yada and sure enough you'd all board flights which had no security screening.

      Just stay away from flightpaths where I'm near.

      1. Eddy Ito

        @AC 13:17

        It isn't that the security screening is pointless but the "new and improved" TSA gland holding style of security security screening that is pointless. Let me ask you this, if it worked why do they keep catching the terrorists on the plane when they go to light their explosive skives? Yeah yeah think of all the folks they caught with nail clippers, knitting needles and other miscellaneous crap they forgot to take out of their luggage when normal everyday items was legal to bring on an airplane. And since you're AC it would be easier for you to stay away when I'm near, but then you'd probably have to be a TSA agent to know... Oh, if you are a TSA agent that puts your second point into much greater clarity, thanks for letting us all know just how you roll.

        "TSA 4 to Base, Tango down! Threat neutralized. Poor bastard didn't have a chance but he should have known not to bring a loaded safety razor through a flightpath where I'm near!"

        1. Tom 13

          @Eddy Ito: Important clarification point:

          In your post you used the ambiguous "they" which could be taken to mean TSA and therefore we might be able to deem them effective. The ambiguous "they" as far as I can recall is not the TSA, but the passengers on the flight, who proceed to hold the perp until the plan lands and TSA and/or FBI can take over. I do believe the most pointed recent case of this would be the pilot* who lost it and was held by the passengers at the co-pilot's request.

          *Yes, I know he wasn't a terrorist and his recent behavior in jail points to a severe mental problem which probably needs proper treatment as opposed to jail time. But that actually only reinforces the case that the airlines and TSA aren't truly effective, they are only effective at security theater. Pilots are supposedly screened even better than passengers, at least from the mental health perspective.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Yeah yeah it's all pointless yada yada and sure enough you'd all board flights which had no security screening"

        You may be interested to know that private flights, esp. those from small airfields or carrying VIPs, undergo little to no screening whatsoever, then we proceed to land at major airports.

        Or of course, you could just cut the fence and make your way to the runway, amongst a number of other things.

        Point being, the actual security is that which you do not see and is mostly done by intelligence work. The primate stealing your water bottles is there just to entertain the audience.

    7. Yet Another Commentard

      @AC 01:23

      I think the thing is that it's not so much they have been effective, it's that they are always looking for the last terrorist attack, not the next. "No shoes, no underwear, no liquid..."

      If it is so good, why have these terrorists not been stopped more often?

      Or just decided to cut the middle man out and walk into an airport en-masse with suitcase bombs and detonate them all. Airport goes down for months, thousands of deaths, lots of publicity, total avoidance of any security theatre anyone could throw at them. Here in London the Tube has not been hit since 7/7, there is no extra security that I can detect.

      I'll stop typing now.

      You forget that most people are honest. The standard internal flight idiocy of having the baggage return outside security by the exit (Atlanta I think does this) shows that. Anyone could walk in, grab a bag on the conveyor, and walk out. Sure, most of the time you'll get dirty underwear, but you may hit the jackpot once. I digress.

      There is more of a risk having your bags unzipped so TSA can open them at will once out of sight than the theatre up front. Are we really to say that a minimum wage secure side person would not be able to slip through and plant explosives/drugs in any open bag? If it's so easy to make a bomb from household chemicals, cleaning fluid the like, used by, er cleaners, in the airport - there's your weakest link, surely. Or even, all those open bags, does nobody, ever, have a rummage and nick some aftershave or something? I mentioned my SSS fiasco some time back, I think it was due to being stopped once on the way in to be asked "has anyone interfered with your luggage" and me saying "well, it's had to be unlocked and out of my sight for the past 15 hours, so I have no idea." Which did not go down very well at all.

      I fear The Powers that Be prefer you to be scared and grateful than thinking.

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: @AC 01:23

        > "has anyone interfered with your luggage"?

        I use a (coloured and marked) cable-tie so that I can answer that one! It's also a mild disincentive to light-fingered security staff. It doesn't stop security looking inside if they want to (and they don't have to wreck my luggage to do so) but a thief will know for sure that I will notice the intrusion at the baggage claim.

    8. unwarranted triumphalism

      If they're doing something right...

      How many terrorists have they caught?

      1. Tom 13

        Re: If they're doing something right...

        I won't necessarily hold not knowing how many they've caught against them. If the managed to nab them quietly before they became headlines, I can see them keeping quiet about it. My concern is more the ones that got through to the plane that we DO know about. Stopped in all instances by non-law enforcement types on the plane (let alone the people allegedly hired to do so). I mean, I don't think we've even had an off duty city beat cop in on one of these captures.

    9. Charles Manning

      What they are doing right

      It is all about perception, keeping the threat in your face and keeping the voters placated. In that they are doing very, very well.

    10. Wayland Sothcott 1
      Big Brother

      There have been no underwear bombers since they installed the body scanners in response to the first underwear bomber. However if you believe they installed the body scanners in direct response to the underwear bomber you are easily gulled. The underwear bomber cam at a very helpful time, just before the installation of body scanners they had already bought.

      If you are controlling both the problem and the solution it's likely you will come out looking good.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Shows constant media scare tactics about terrorism work

    People had enough fear drummed into them by the media and government over the past decade that they became willing to submit to anything to feel safe again. Remember how they used to mention the "threat level" all the time on the news? How many times have we heard claims about how many terrorist plots have been stopped, while we have less than a half dozen actual instances, all of which were woefully incompetent morons acting alone with little outside support (shoe bomber, underwear bomber, printer cartridge bomber)

    Don't bother pointing out that more Americans die in automobile crashes EVERY MONTH than died on 9/11, the sheep don't care. Don't bother pointing out that the bans on box cutters were stupid because it's trivial to sharpen the edge of a credit card sharp enough to slit ones throat, they'll only eye you suspiciously as a possible terrorist for knowing/thinking about this.

    Even the Tea Partiers who think government is incompetant to scratch it's own ass would never think of cutting security spending. They want to cut waste, fraud and abuse, and somehow think there's enough of that to practically balance the budget, but they won't find any of that in the TSA or Homeland Security!

    1. Yet Another Commentard

      Re: Shows constant media scare tactics about terrorism work

      Doug is on the money (I know nothing about Tea Partiers though, being a Brit)

      I don't have the stats to hand, but in the aftermath of 9/11 IIRC more extra people died because they chose to go by road over the six months after it, than died in the 9/11 atrocity.

      Humans are an odd bunch that don't really understand risk.

    2. Tom 13

      Re: Even the Tea Partiers...would never think of cutting security spending.

      Yes, we would. But given it's one of the few areas which is explicitly authorized in the Constitution, we'd cut it in a more rational way than knee-jerkers like you who just hate The Man. And, yeah, I'm pretty sure you'd have fit if we could do what we'd like to about security.

    3. TAJW

      Re: Shows constant media scare tactics about terrorism work

      Umm ... wrong. I don't claim to be a 'Tea Partier', but I sure agree with most of what they are trying to do. I can assure you, most people who think as I do think the TSA is a huge waste of money and effort, plus the building of a new agency who seems to have almost unlimted power to harass and control the public is a very bad idea.

      The TSA has become a force that apparently has no bounds, and is coming to a bus or train station near you. Perhaps ultimately to monitor ingress and egress of the building you work in, after all ... elevators are a form of transportation, and could be used in a terrorist act.

      Watch and see.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Flawed sample set

    Generally, I trust Gallop polls about as far as I can piss upwind - and I live in Kansas.

    People like myself, who care about our privacy and our freedom, have unlisted numbers on the Do Not Call list. Moreover, we have answering machines on our land-lines, and screen our calls, and do not take polling calls. Those with only cell phones are even more likely to screen calls, and thus are not counted in this sort of poll. This poll selected for sheeple.

    The TSA is ineffectual at best, and is nothing but security theater at worst. The main steps to secure air travel - locking the flight deck and refusing to deal with hijackers - have already been implemented. The idea that a terrorist is going to be able to make a decent explosive from chemicals that, if commanded at the checkpoint to drink will not cause the terrorist's head to explode immediately, goes against basic chemistry. The best thing they could do to improve air travel safety would be to station 2 armed air marshals - one uniformed, one undercover - on each flight.

    1. GrumpyOldBloke

      Re: Flawed sample set

      >nothing but security theater at worst.

      At worst it is much worse than just security theatre. The effects of the xray and millimetre wave scanners on human health should be factored in as well as the spread of disease from TSA workers not changing gloves between intimate pat downs. Consider also the economic cost of having your tourism industry destroyed by these procedures or the strong disincentives to frequent business travel (ignoring malware that just goes in and steals products anyway). It may also be that the surrender of freedom that the NSA / CIA / FBI / FEMA / Homeland Security / TSA police state embodies will mean a less confident, less creative America - that is for products people actually want to buy rather than products dropped upon them from 40,000 feet - and that does not augur well for their future - exhibit A: the UK. On the bright side, most of the Western world seems to be heading down this path of oppression and we may all soon find common purpose in the dream of moving to China, Russia or North Korea for the principles of freedom and democracy that they represent.

    2. Eugene Crosser

      Flawed sample set? Flawed question!

      Given the TSA's brief is to perform in the security theatre, i.e. to make a show to the Americans (and visitors) of how the state cares about keeping them safe, they are doing good or even excellent job. If I was asked this question, that would've been my honest answer.

      The jump from "doing good job" to being "highly effective" is absolutely unjustified (unless you count "highly effective in stage performance").

      If the question has been "is TSA useful for averting the terrorist threat?" then the answer would have been quite different.

      1. Eugene Crosser

        Re: Flawed sample set? Flawed question!

        oops, to correct myself, there was a separate question about being effective. Jumped to commenting before reading properly. *facepalm*

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Flawed sample set? Flawed question!

        Not so much flawed, actually, as very carefully designed. For the purpose it was designed to serve, that is.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Self selecting morons?

    Hi do you want to talk to me about the folks at the TSA?

    ..Doh, OK

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Self selecting morons?

      Reminds me of that south park episode 'Studies show that every 4th american is mentally retarded, there's 4 of us so you must be retarded cartman'

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A good citizen is a scared citizen

    TSA, TSA!

    We will scare you, all the way!

    1. Darryl

      Re: A good citizen is a scared citizen

      "We're making air travel a touching experience"

  11. Arc_Light

    Hold on...

    While I tend to agree with the various comments expressed above, I think we also have to remember how this poll was conducted. If you follow the link, the question asked was as follows:

    "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?"

    There are multiple ways to interpret that question, and if one interprets it as "how well are they doing the job they've been told to do?", the answer I myself would give would tend to be positive - that is, I believe they are, on balance, doing a good job at following the policies they've been told to follow. I also happen to think that those policies are by and large idiotic, unnecessary, and far more about the appearance of security than actually making us safe (all the while eroding our privacy, wasting our time, exposing us to unnecessary radiation and generally making the whole process far more unpleasant than it needs to be), but they are effectively executing those idiotic policies most of the time, are they not? What they should've done was to ask a question concerning the TSA's policies themselves, not their ability to execute on them.

    As to the follow-up:

    "How 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 response you see is a direct result of the lack of any successful terrorist attacks via *US* airplane - that's in the question - in the last 11 years. Of course, if you put things in perspective:

    ...up to that point we had never had a single terrorist attack via US airplane at all; the closest we came were the Lockerbie bombings, since the flight was headed to the US, and we went for 13 years after that (without total panic, I might add) with nothing, in spite of all sorts of bad people being quite unhappy with us all over the world even then. This confirms that we are really, really bad at working out cause and effect - by far the more dismaying answer in my view than the one about whether the TSA is doing a "heckuva job" or not.

    Last point, while as I say I agree with the points being made here, I will also say that, having lived in Europe and in the US and traveling internationally quite a lot over the last decade plus, airport security in the UK is even worse than in the US, in my experience. One carry on / no personal item, screened over and over and over again and on and on - ugh. I didn't think that was possible until I experienced it, but I can say now that it is. Not sure why you folks put up with that either, honestly, if we're going to be even-handed here...

    Perhaps we should try airport security the French way (at least where CDG is concerned) by making our airports impossible to navigate, doing more to encourage missed connections and losing every third bag - at least 33% less likely to have a bomb on the plane that way, in addition to which the way they handle the bags that do make it at CDG makes me 100% certain that anything even remotely shock sensitive will be detonated well before it gets loaded. I have never seen such violence, such anger, such passion directed towards luggage as the French are able to summon at CDG. It is really quite something, and has made me an expert at repairing luggage.

    As a friend said about my hard-sided Samsonite bag - the all plastic clamshell kind and the only thing that's survive the entire period in question (IT angle, I not once but *twice *brought a desktop tower trans-Atlantic inside it - pulled the HDs and put them in my carry-on, then stuffed the inside with packing material - no damage, still using the case) - I've replaced so many of the plastic fittings they've beaten the sh*t out of - stuff that it shouldn't be possible to break (but they did) - with over-engineered metal replacements that it's getting to the point where they are going to have to cut it in half to break it the next time around.


    1. Esskay
      Thumb Up

      Re: Hold on...

      Agree. Since there's been no terrorist attacks, logically it would be hard for many people to claim that the TSA had *not* been effective.

      Perhaps if the question asked was "evaluate the following statement: 'the powers the TSA have are necessary to be effective against terrorism' - Strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, strongly disagree" the results would be different. OR

      "Would the TSA be more effective with decent human beings in their employ, rather than the fuckwits, arseholes and illiterate, braindead morons they currently employ?"

      As always, the results the survey gives are determined by the questions asked.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        Re: Hold on...

        ""Would the TSA be more effective with decent human beings in their employ, rather than the fuckwits, arseholes and illiterate, braindead morons they currently employ?""

        You appear to think the purpose of the Thieves Support Association is something to do with "security."

        1. Tom 13

          Re: Hold on...

          I know some people who work for the TSA, and actually in the screening positions. Frankly, they are decent human beings, except when they have to put on the badge and follow TSA policies. And if the TSA policies don't worry you, THAT should.

  12. jonathan 11
    Thumb Down

    Survey results don't match my experience

    Maybe it is a local bias (live near DC, travel regularly) but I cannot think of anyone that would agree that the TSA is doing a good job. The conversations I hear are more frequently about how it should be disbanded, generally followed by a first or second hand account of obnoxious behavior. I have not had a bad experience myself, other than the general annoyance with the process, but would agree with the "get rid of them" assessment. Enormous waste of time and money, oppressive concept to begin with, and the few terrorist attempts have been thwarted by passengers rather than security.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Survey results don't match my experience

      Interesting. Isn't Ronnie Regan International meant to be top of the pile because of those Very Important Politicians (and their associated lackeys/henchmen/high price escorts) that travel with them.

      RR is meant to be the gold standard of the TSA.

      So you can imagine what the rest of the network is like...

      1. Tom 13

        Re: Survey results don't match my experience

        Yes, yes it is. And in that particular instance the TSA is doing a very good job of keeping Joe Public away so that it is properly reserved to only those VIPs and their courtiers.

  13. raving angry loony

    Wonder if the survey was done by the TSA?

    Hi, while I have your junk in my fist, would you care to comment how good a job you think we're doing?

    1. TAJW

      Re: Wonder if the survey was done by the TSA?

      "Hi, while I have your junk in my fist, would you care to comment how good a job you think we're doing?"

      That right there is funny, I don't care who ya are!

  14. Magani

    Yes Minister

    From the depths of my memory, I seem to remember Sir Humphrey explaining to an innocent Jim Hacker that any poll can deliver the required results depending on how you ask the questions.

    Same thing here, perchance?

    As a non-USA-ian I'd have to say that ever time I've flown in the US, I've been selected for a 'random' detailed search. I wish my chances at Gold Lotto were so 'random'. Maybe they profile balding 50+ Anglo-Saxons as a high risk?

    Bomb icon as that's what this security theatre is all about.

    1. Yet Another Commentard

      Re: Yes Minister

      It was about National Service for the young, and something like this.


      Do you think there is insufficient discipline amongst the young?

      Do you think the army provides structure and discipline?

      Do you think more discipline would be a Good Thing?

      Do you agree with National Service?


      Do you think there is a lot of violence amongst the young?

      Do you think they should have access to guns and knives?

      Do you agree with National Service?

      etc etc

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Frankly I think that all of these security agencies were opened up at best with no real forethought and at worst with malicious intent after 9/11 and have far too much power and far too little oversight.

    But the only way out of it is if the government actually served the public, rather than themselves so we're screwed.

    AC since I can hear the black helicopters coming already.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who commissioned the poll?

    Also, what for?

    Next question: Is this given --now that it's published it'll be trotted out as hard fact for at least the next five years-- something for the few people who value real freedom important enough to, say, go out and educate people?

    If we can spread the word on many things from leaked corporate greed or governmental duplicity proving documents to atrocities around the world, then surely we can package the message that growing up in security theatre captivity is not, should not be the norm?

    Can't just evangelize though. Have to wrap the thing in a nice and spiffy package or the goldfish generation will gloss right over it.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sample size?

    A poll of 1000 people is bad enough in the UK where it represents approx 1/49000th of the adult population. In the US that works out as somewhere round 1/250,000. (0.0004%)

    How can anyone take these surveys seriously?

    1. johnnytruant

      Re: Sample size?

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. John H Woods Silver badge

      Re: Sample size?

      A sample size of 1000 would be perfectly satisfactory to get some sensible results IFF the samples are chosen at random. The smaller the sample size, the more important it is that it is a truly random selection of the population. That is probably not the case in this survey, as others have pointed out, but if you can ensure perfect sample selection you'd be surprised how reliable it can be.

      For instance, if you found that 50% of a truly random 1k sample liked apple pie, then you would have about 95% confidence that the true value in a population of 250k was within 47-53% and only a 1% chance that the real population's liking for apple pie was outside the 46-54% range. However, asking customers of the Pie Factory, or the residents of the Olympic Village, might render one's results MUCH less reliable.

  18. This post has been deleted by its author

  19. Anonymous John

    Odin promised to get rid of the ice giants.

    I've never seen an ice giant.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Odin promised to get rid of the ice giants.

      "I've never seen an ice giant."

      I have. See: "Brocken spectre". Seems Odin 0, humans 1.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Frequent flyer mileage

    Have I missed the bit where they clearly state all of these randomly selected people have flown at least once since the appearance of the TSA in 2001?

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Frequent flyer mileage

      No. A bit over half of them have not flown at all.

      They have not extended the TSA to cover trains, have they?

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        Re: Frequent flyer mileage

        Just to clarify.

        I sincerely hope the TSA will *not* be extended to US rail travel but there's always some politician whose "Got a brilliant idea.."

      2. TAJW

        Re: Frequent flyer mileage

        They aren't doing trains and busses on a regular basis yet, although they have done a few random 'Tiger Team' exercises where they go to terminals and start to check people.

        Very reminicent of 'Your papers please!' of WWII Germany.

    2. stanimir

      Re: Frequent flyer mileage

      Unless the participants fly at least several times a year such a poll is just useless.

      If someone claims security policies on the airports are anywhere useful and one would enjoy the same due process not feeling like criminal that person has truly twisted ideas.

      1. Rob 5

        Re: Frequent flyer mileage

        "Unless the participants fly at least several times a year such a poll is just useless."

        Agreed - experience is necessary for having an informed opinion.

        The problem is, a survey of frequent fliers would likely return the opposite result to that wanted by whomever commissioned this survey. Just look at all the ranting on Flyertalk, for example.

  21. Crisp
    Big Brother

    Those that choose to give up a little liberty for the illusion of security

    Deserve to have their junk felt.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    TSA = Thousands Standing Around

    'nuff said.

  23. (AMPC) Anonymous and mostly paranoid coward

    Here is my solution: make the poll part of the boarding process

    Here we go:

    1) For counter and travel agent passengers, first ask the routine security questions.

    2) Then ask questions about how well the TSA is doing its job.

    3) Use the same process when the tickets are booked online.

    3) Run the survey for six months to get a decent sample, have the process monitored and results collated and collected by a reasonably neutral third party like a passenger interest group or IATA.

    4) Publish those results.

    The chance to vent might even make some people look forward to flying again

    1. ITS Retired

      Re: Here is my solution: make the poll part of the boarding process

      This sound too much like including the passenger in the security loop as a sentient person. Where does this "Keep'em scared" come in, if the targeted sheep can ask embarrassing questions in the survey and otherwise question the so-called security and procedures?

      This can never work, 'cause it is a step back and counter productive from the eventual total control by our over Overlords.

      1. Midnight

        Re: Here is my solution: make the poll part of the boarding process

        That's easy. Just remind the passengers that they will be answering questions about how amazingly great the TSA is _before_ they pass through security, and that the person asking the questions will holding their boarding pass while listening to their answers.

        I'm sure that that will either raise the TSA's approval rating a few more points or lead to a few unhappy "terrorists" being caught and interrogated by The Nation's Finest.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dumb Americans !

    Now dont you get me started, please.

    I still get nightmares. Even my 8 year old daughter could not fathom them, when ordering a burger and chips!

    1. Marshalltown

      Re: Dumb Americans !

      That's just because you don't speak American.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dumb Americans !

      Not "chips". "Freedom fries".

  25. Phil Endecott


    Why should I care what 1,014 ordinary people think? Ordinary people are not qualified to assess the effectiveness of the TSA. I'd be much more interested to hear the views of 12 experts, or an experiment to see how often a gun or bomb could actually be smuggled onto a plane.

  26. AJames

    The answer depends on the question

    The TSA is doing a good job... of what exactly? Apparently it's not preventing terrorist attacks, because the majority of people in the survey don't think they're very effective at that. More people should read Daniel Kahneman's excellent book "Thinking Fast and Slow", which tells us that people mentally substitute an easy question when asked a hard one and answer that instead. In this case I think people are answering the question of whether the TSA are doing the best job they can given their mandate. I would probably answer that question the same way. But I also think the TSA are ineffective at stopping terrorist attacks, and their operations come at a truly enormous cost in both money and inconvenience to travelers. The billions of dollars squandered on ineffective security in a vain attempt to prevent a handful of terrorist attacks could be spent saving millions of children from starvation, preventing wars, developing medical breakthroughs, promoting justice and human rights internationally etc.. Everything comes at a cost, and one must always compare the value you are getting when answering questions about whether it's the right thing to do.

    1. Magani

      Re: The answer depends on the question

      ..."people mentally substitute an easy question when asked a hard one and answer that instead."

      Or in the case of politicians, they ignore the original one and answer a totally different question to which they have a rehearsed party-approved answer.

  27. William Boyle

    Gotta wonder

    One has to wonder how many of those polled have actually flown from US airports recently. When I passed through the terrahertz scanner in Sacramento last month, they still had to grope me because of "back sweat" that skewed the images... It was a hot day (100F+), so you'd think they could deal with that. :-(

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Gotta wonder

      One does not have to wonder, as TFA gives you the information to which you refer.

  28. ptmmac

    Humble apology

    I am an American, who hasn't travelled internationally since 1995. I think Churchill had us right when he said Americans will do the right thing only when every other alternative has been tried. Our current system of making foreigners uncomfortable, angry and humiliated is not the right thing. We could do better, but when we do something in a hurry the lobbyists buy up all the money for their paymasters. The results are not pretty.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Humble apology

      I've sometimes wondered how many Americans were aware that Winston Churchill was in fact half American and spent a fair bit of time in the US.

    2. wayne 8

      Re: making foreigners uncomfortable, angry and humiliated

      Obviously, you have not had experience with the TSA (as you state you haven't flown since 1995). They do not, will not, use profiling in their procedures. They are equal opportunity humilators. They don't care about the individual.

  29. Annapolis2

    Need I remind every media outlet citing this poll of the long long list of other popularly approved, yet unjust and disgraceful abuses of power in U.S. history: the Alien and Sedition Acts, legal slavery, Jim Crow laws, the internment of Japanese-Americans, male-only suffrage, and I could go on.

    The point is, my rights are not up for a popular vote. A majority or even a super-majority do not get to vote on whether I deserve to be sexually assaulted by a thug in a blue shirt because I bought an airline ticket. Barely-trained TSA screeners are manhandling perfectly innocent people in ways that U.S. police officers would never be permitted to do without suspicion, probable cause or a warrant. My body is mine, and keep your hands off my sex organs, TSA perverts! I don't care how many people voted for you to put your hands down my pants: what's wrong is wrong.

  30. ZenCoder

    The government gives us what we want.

    The government isn't freaking out and over reacting.

    The media terrorized the public for ratings.

    The public freaked out and wanted drastic action.

    The politicians pander to the public's panic by creating security theater.

    If we want a better government we need better informed voters.

    1. Marshalltown

      "If we want a better government we need better informed voters."

      Oooh. Now there's a thought, "informed voters." But, let's think about how. TV? Nah. Sound bite city, no substance, biased as aitch, ee, double hokey sticks. News papers? Well, once upon a time, perhaps, but Jefferson had become a skeptic regarding news papers by 1813, Internet? snort, cough, choke. It sounds like a good idea, but just how might you go about achieving such a lofty goal?

      1. Eddy Ito

        Re: "If we want a better government we need better informed voters."

        It's the product of an educational industry that rewards conformance, repetition and obedience while suppressing rational discussion and independent thought that has created drones who do not question the rhetorical fear mongering that comes from government and media. Unfortunately even with an entire overhaul of the educational system it would take a few generations before any positive results were realized and it is unlikely that the current group of adult voters would have the stomach to change a system they feel comfortable with. Hell, they don't even cover basic personal economics so we wind up with lots of folks who can't even balance a check book much less make knowledgeable decisions about mortgages or retirement plans.

      2. wayne 8

        Re: "If we want a better government we need better informed voters."

        What is needed is a higher bar for the privilege of participating in the Republic. Maybe having most of one's income come from W2 (withholding from pay for work performed, as opposed to 1099-D for Dividend income) and actually paying tax into the system. Some adjustments for those who contribute positively to the Republic without a W2.

        Evidently, in the USA those who lack the capacity and wherewithal to obtain a photo id from their local government offices are the most important voters in an election.

  31. Mr. Chuck

    Nourishing the poultry

    We used to have a wonderfully dodgy state premier Mr. Bjelke-Petersen who called this sort of thing 'feeding the chickens'. Looks like the chooks are full and replete. If the TSA really wanted to make Americans safer, it should leave the airports and disarm the lot of 'em. But apparently it's OK for Americans to massacre each other by the bushel, as long as no goldurn furriners try to muscle in.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nourishing the poultry

      "Don't you worry about that!"

      Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

    2. Marshalltown


      Disarming the Britons hasn't rediced "gun violence" in Great Britain, so why would that work in the US? The numbers in Britain have been trending gradually upward since about 1968. England never did have a murder rate with thinking about, even back when the first laws to control fire arms ownership were passed. The chief goal was to keep anarchists from arming themselves and then shooting the odd parliamentarian. And as a point of fact, the US is not really near the top of the heap when it comes to shooting folks anyway.

      1. BoldMan

        Re: ????

        Depends what you mean by "reduced". What is has done is keep guns out of the hands of most of the nutters who when the girl they fancy tells them to stop stalking them goes postal at the local school or movie theatre. It eliminated all those tragic accidents where Daddy left the gun on the kitchen table and little Johnny grabbed it and shot his sister... the sort of "gun crime" that is common in the USA. We don't have that in the UK. Most of the gun crime we have appears to be caused by armed police shooting people (eg being guilty of being a Brazilian Electrician on a tube train!)

  32. JaitcH

    A meaningless survey unless ...

    (1) We get to see the questions;

    (2) Who paid for the survey.

    Americans may be naive but never that naive. Pure bloody theatre.

  33. Herby

    By any other name...

    As was said before: "Security Theater". No more, no less. For a trip from the SF bay area to the LA area (300 miles as the crow flies), it almost takes as much time to fly (arrive hours before, one hour plane ride, fetch rental car at destination, etc...) as it takes to just drive down there (5.5 hours using a "Top Gear" style lead foot: "How hard can it be?"). Given the costs of gasoline (petrol) at even $4/gal (probably going up after the refinery fire!), it is really much cheaper as well.

    So, the choice is pretty obvious: Air travel is a pain in the butt. And by the way, TSA is just idiots (read minimum wage dolts at $8/hr) who just annoy you with SILLY policies: Take off your shoes, remove your belt, empty the change from your pockets, etc...)

  34. Marshalltown

    SARC tags

    You know how it is. A TSA officer disguised as a pollster for Gallup asks, "do you think the TSA is doing a good job? Yes or no." You say, "it's doing a great job [of p****** me off - under your breath, since you don't wnat to land a on a no-fly list]." But, since they don't allow sarc tags, your tongue-in-cheek answer is counted in the plus column.

  35. Diogenes

    Remember flying just after Sept 11

    And was impressed with the diligence of our Australian equivalent by the fact that my nail clippers were removed (forgot to take them out hand luggage) ... but was even more impressed when I noticed that the 1st class passengers had been given steak knives with which to eat their Beef Wellington.

    1. AndrewInIreland

      Re: Remember flying just after Sept 11

      Yeah, they were removing nail clippers at Dublin Airport too- and then in duty free there were magazines with free manicure sets (sissors and nail clippers) for sale.

      I once asked one of the securitrons how did they ensure that the (expensive) bottled water for sale in the duty free area had been deweaponised?

  36. Dana W

    I know NOBODY who thinks the TSA isn't an evil, corrupt waste of time. Then again none of my friends are religious. Religious people will believe ANYTHING.

    Who are they polling?

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If anyone is interested

    I can think of half a dozen dfferent undetectable ways to get a blade or other nefarious article onto an aircraft which are essentially impossible to screen against even with backscatter/pat down.

    Needless to say I am not going to, but suffice it to say that by the time TSA sort out the resulting mess if this information were ever released, you would have to hand in your clothes at the gate and wear disposable "travel uniforms" a la "Andromeda Strain".

    No laptops, MP3 players, portable devices, or anything with a battery.

    No hot drinks, or even access to a microwave.


    1. Charles 9

      Re: If anyone is interested

      And I don't know if even that would save you. After all, we already know people have gotten pretty...KINKY...about sneaking explosives through INSIDE themselves. Short of strip-searching everyone, how you gonna deal with explosive-filled suppositories or dildos?

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Many hacks have an agenda and small brain

    The TSA removed over 2,000 guns from carry-on baggage last year - many which were actually loaded. The current system is far from perfect but not a single critic can go to any major airport in the world and point out the terrorists. So until they can the TSA is the best system we have at the moment.

    You can always take the train, bus or a boat if you're that unhappy.

    1. Rune Moberg

      Re: Many hacks have an agenda and small brain

      But... Does that mean that *you* will happily take the "train, bus or a boat"? If TSA is all that stands between the terrorists and your flight, how come your "train, bus or a boat" does not go up in flames every week?

      On the flip side of that particular coin: Would you suggest that TSA-grade security scans be instituted for other means of transport besides air-travel?

      Is that even feasible?

      Personally I do not enjoy being blown up (hehehe, very close to a raincoat icon there), be it on a plane, train or a bus. I do not see much difference. I would be just as dead on those fatal 9/11 flights as I would have on those 7/7 buses. Maybe there would be more pieces of my corpse left behind if I had been on an exploding bus rather than an exploding airplane, but I frankly could not care less at that point.

      For the last couple of years I have preferred my own automobile. Not because I feel "safer" (statistically, well, you all know what they show), but because I just cannot be bothered with all the stress and hassle of air travel. I love to fly (despite learning from MS Flight Simulator that those things are NOT foolproof), but I do not like the intimacy on display at the security checkpoints. If that means (like last year) driving all the way from Sweden to Georgia (through some of the worst roads in Europe), then so be it.

      ...And that is what I would have written BEFORE the bastards took away our water, forcing us, in many places, to pay exhuberant prices for a tiny bottle of water to carry us through a dehydrating flight. Now airtravel has become a farce of epic proportions. I hope the bastards responsible will burn in hell.

    2. Eddy Ito

      Re: Many ACs have an agenda

      Many ACs exaggerate and blow things out of proportion as in reality the TSA says they only found 1306 firearms in carry-on bags in 2011. Perhaps you recall the old metal detectors we used to walk through since the early '70s and which did alarm for 4 of the 9/11 terrorists before the security people let them pass similar to the woman who tested positive for explosives in Newark last week.

      "... the TSA is the best system we have at the moment."

      I can't begin to tell you how silly that statement is but perhaps by analogy this will do; my TV is the best one I have at the moment. Sounds silly doesn't it? That's because it could be the biggest piece of shit broken TV that gets one station and only displays the red and green color channels and even then the two colors are out of sync. Not many people would put up with that TV but unfortunately for us we are forced to put up with the TSA for a commercial flight and any benefit to safety is nebulous at best. We got the TSA because some politician decided "we have to do something" without really knowing what to do or what would work.

  39. disgruntled yank


    Now and then, in a weak moment, I succumb and answer a pollster's questions--sometimes about media, sometimes about schools, sometimes about plans for IT spending. My usual priority is to get it done and off the phone, and my experience leaves me skeptical about tech news articles about the umpteen percent of shops that have virtualization plans including thus and such for 2012, not to say those that give Americans' opinions of schools & the media. So I would not put much weight on this poll.

    As for TSA: I find the staff not impolite, probably more polite than the many of the BOFHes in the readership would be if they had to deal with the public 40 hours per week. I doubt many of them turned down job offers from Google or Goldman Sachs to deal with plastic trays full of fragrant shoes. It is Congress and the Executive that are responsible for this nonsense.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All good until it goes wrong

    The survey results will change drastically if there is another terrorist attack. Success can only be measured by how much was actually prevented by them, which is currently unquantifiable. The evidence presented by the TSA has been completely underwhelming. The situation is also distorted by the massive multinational military effort chasing down would be terrorists.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ignorance is bliss

    For some folks ignorance is bliss. They haven't a clue in the world but they hate none the less. The TSA is an under appreciated necessity in a world gone mad. Until someone comes up with a better security solution, the TSA will have to do the best that they can.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One in four people in the world is Chinese

    In our house there's me, my Dad Paul, my Mum lynda and my Brother Chow Yun Ho - I think it's me!

    Failure to understand statistics or how to recognise a poorly worded survey question will lead to (deliberate) misunderstanding of the results.

  43. You Are Not Free

    Psychological Manipulation

    Can be a powerful thing.

  44. Miami Mike
    Big Brother

    Differing goals

    Think about this a moment - for the most part, the police show up AFTER an incident (traffic accident, robbery, etc.) and frequently aren't around to prevent it (whatever it is). The TSA is charged with preventing any incidents, so consequently their job is harder and has to be much more intrusive. TSA has to be pro-active, not reactive.

    We will also never know how many wanna-be terrorists and random nut-jobs decided to try their luck elsewhere or even forget about it entirely since they realized that the TSA would likely prevent them from getting onto an airplane in the first place. There are two parts to the TSA, the part we see, and the part we don't. TSA isn't going to talk about all their techniques because then the (imputed) baddies will know what they have to overcome.

    Sure, being delayed, doing a public strip-tease and being groped is a PITA, but being blown up at 35,000 feet is somewhat moreso. I don't like the idea that we need a TSA, but unfortunately, this world is a far from perfect place. Complaining about the TSA in today's world is like complaining about having to carry the keys around that you use to lock your car and home, it is part of the deal nowadays.

    Could the TSA be done better? Probably. Are they "corrupt"? Probably not, for the most part. Any bureaucratic organization is going to have core incompetencies, it is just the we SEE (and obviously, feel) the TSA first hand. Do you get upset with "customer service" for your computer/cableTV/banking being outsourced to Mars? This is the same thing, except homegrown.

  45. John A Blackley

    I think TSA is wonderful

    and I tell them so each time I go through an airport.

    Due to my sad life the feel-up I get in airports is about the only sign of affection I receive nowadays. Problem only arises when I ask for a phone number.

  46. roger stillick

    SHOCK: Poll shows- - - -highly effective

    Here's the deal= in the USA you either submit to TSA or you don't fly on the scheduled Airlines...

    Saying something bad about TSA gets you off the plane and arrested...

    do that more than once and you are on the no fly list as a terrorist, or, Hello Amtrak- I love trains now...

    So when asked, we all say= Wonderful Job that TSA, remembering the movie Manchurian candidate...

    Sarcasm Alert= Americans think TSA is highly effective, it is illegal not to say so..

    we're not stupid or crazy, we just gave up... it's way easier... IMHO

    giving bad info to pollsters is a cottage industry here in good old USA...

  47. Fisher1949

    Poll Finds Most Americans Think TSA is Useless

    This headline is completely false! Only 41% found them effective or about 4 in 10 people. Did the writer actually look at the results?

    The Gallup poll results show that most Americans think TSA is useless in protecting them. The poll says that 58% found TSA less than effective. Since security effectiveness is their only responsibility how can this be construed as favorable for TSA? And why is the media focusing only on the “job” data?

    Gallup said that 54% of Americans “think” TSA does a decent job while 44% don’t think they do a good job, hardly a ringing endorsement. The poll has a 4% margin indicating that Americans are largely divided on whether the screeners are doing a good job or not. It also shows TSA’s PR campaign has been more successful than their workers.

    Why was it necessary to add the adjective “only” to the fair performance category when “fair” would have been sufficient? This creates a bias by implying “only” is bad in the question and contaminates the result.

    The Gallup question on TSA job performance was severely flawed and biased. There were two options that gave TSA a clearly favorable rating, Excellent and Good but only one that gave them a clearly unfavorable rating, Poor. The Only Fair category was somewhat neutral and offered a substitute for an unfavorable rating.

    So if a plane explodes because of TSA incompetence but America thinks the screeners “do a good job” that makes it okay?

    Gallup’s data shows that 48% of respondents have not flown in a year or more and are not familiar with the agency or its procedures and 75% seldom if ever fly.

    Another interpretation of Gallup’s data is that 75% of Americans are non-fliers or rarely use airlines and are unaware of TSA’s poor performance record or just don’t care since it doesn’t affect them.

    Maybe Gallup will comment on why TSA’s poor effectiveness wasn’t the headline in the press and why the media favorably reported the performance results.

    And how does anyone explain how only 122 people who flew more than five times in the past year suffice for anyone to conclude that millions of frequent fliers view TSA favorably?

    It’s funny that the pool came out he same day this comes on the day when two more TSA screeners in Atlanta were indicted for smuggling drugs through security in a FBI sting. Twelve TSA workers have been charged with smuggling contraband in twenty months

    Media pandering to an incompetent agency that can’t rid itself of criminals is jeopardizing airline safety, not helping it.

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