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 selected American adults whether they thought the TSA was "doing an excellent, good, only fair, or poor job." Of that group, 54 per cent responded that the agency was doing an "excellent" or "good" job. Only 12 per cent thought it was doing a "poor" job.
Opinions of whether the TSA's screening procedures were effective at preventing acts of terrorism on US airplanes were more mixed, but still mostly positive.
The largest portion, 44 per cent, said the TSA's security measures were only "somewhat effective," while 12 per cent said they were either "not too effective" or "not effective at all." But a significant 41 per cent responded that the TSA's procedures were either "very effective" or "extremely effective."
The survey was conducted via telephone, with Gallup calling a mix of landline and mobile phones. n cases where the respondent spoke Spanish, a Spanish-speaking interviewer was used.
Not all of those surveyed had recent first-hand experience with the TSA. In fact, nearly half had never boarded an airplane during the last 12 months, which at first blush would seem to cast their opinions of the agency into some doubt.
But according to Gallup, among the 52 per cent of respondents who had flown, opinion of the TSA was actually higher than among those who hadn't. On average, 57 per cent of flyers thought the TSA was doing either a "good" or "excellent" job, and the figure was consistent whether they had flown three or more times or only once.
Whether a respondent had young children in the home didn't seem to matter much, either, as the responses of people with children under 18 in their homes matched the national averages exactly.
The one factor that seemed to affect the survey results the most was age. Among those aged 18 to 29, 67 per cent thought the TSA was doing an "excellent" or "good" job, a figure 13 per cent higher than the overall average. That figure drops to 55 per cent among 30- to 49-year-olds, 50 per cent among 50- to 64-year-olds, and just 45 per cent for older respondents.
Gallup analysts offer a succinct explanation for the disparities between these age categories.
"When the TSA was formed in late 2001, Americans who are now 18 to 29 were between seven and 18 years old," the report explains, "meaning that their flying experience has been mostly in an environment in which increased airport security and TSA screening procedures are the norm." ®