Does The TSA Need To See Any Junk At All, Ever?
John Tyner, the man who told the TSA in San Diego, ” If you touch my junk, I’m gonna have you arrested,” did not echo the sentiments of most Americans, according to a new CBS poll that shows 81% support full body scans. However, as Nate Silver points out, that’s probably because most people haven’t been subjected to it yet.
In general, surveying Americans on issues related to airport security is problematic because most Americans fly rarely, if ever. A Gallup poll conducted in 2008, for instance, found that just 44 percent of Americans reported having flown at least once in the past year. In fact, this is probably an overestimate. The Gallup poll reported that American adults had taken an average of 1.7 round trips by airplane in the past year. Statistics compiled by the Department of Transportation, however, found a total of about 800 million passengers boarded flights offered by U.S.-based carriers in 2008. Since a typical round-trip consists of either 2 or 4 flights (depending on whether there is a layover or not; a round-trip might also involve as many as 6 or 8 flights when there are multiple layovers), this implies that there were something on the order of 250 million round trips made by airplane in 2008, which would be fewer than one per American, rather than the 1.7 trips that the Gallup poll found. My guess is that the fraction of Americans who travel by plane each year is in fact probably not more than about 1 in 3.
It’s also true, however, that we’re willing to accept lots of invasive activity in the name of safety.
Americans are willing to tolerate a great number of things at the airport that they would never stand for in other parts of their lives. (Imagine, for instance, if you had to pass through a metal detector on the way into the shopping mall, or were diverted for 15 minutes through a security checkpoint every time that you wanted to drive on the Interstate.)
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