Monday, November 22, 2010

Poll of the day

A recent CBS News poll brings us both good and bad news.

The good news is that 81% of those surveyed said that airports should use full-body scanners to aid air-travel security. Respondents' answers, overall, differed somewhat by political ideology -- 83% of self-identified Republicans approve of the scans, along with 81% of Democrats and 78% of independents.

The bad news, sort of, is that 52% of those surveyed said that air travelers "of certain racial or ethnic groups...[should not] be subject to additional security checks." Broken down by political affiliation, Democrats were the only group with a majority (64%) declaring that racial and ethnic profiling aren't justified. A plurality of independents (47%) also disapproves of profiling, while a slight plurality of Republicans (46%) said that it's justified.

I'm a bit concerned that the results of the second question reflect our national discomfort with any kind of profiling. If the TSA and its counterparts profile only by race or ethnicity -- which is, specifically, what the CBS News poll asked -- that would be a bad thing from a security standpoint.

Fortunately, I can conclude this post with more good news -- for the last seven years the TSA has been conducting what's called "behavioral profiling," a comprehensive and proven technique for identifying high-risk actors before they act.