Thursday's off-lead story by Robin Toner and Marjorie Connelly on a new CBS/NYT poll, "9/11 PollsFind Lingering Fears in New York City," dwells on the fears that remain five years after the terrorist attacks in Manhattan and at the Pentagon.
But the national pollitself (the consortium also conducted a separate poll of just New Yorkers) found some interesting responses to three questions not mentioned in the story, perhaps because they conflicted with one of the Times' irresponsiblesecurity scoops, its revelation of the National Security Agency's program to monitor communications between terror suspects without warrants.
Here's Question 47, loaded toward the Times' paranoid view of government surveillance: "In order to reduce the threat of terrorism, would you be willing or not willing to allow government agencies to monitor the telephone calls and e-mails of ordinary Americans on a regular basis?"
When phrased in such scary terms, the idea is unpopular by a margin of 59-38.
Here's the alternate question, Question 48, phrased more accurately (though many of the people monitored by the government aren't actually American citizens): "In order to reduce the threat of terrorism, would you be willing or not willing to allow government agencies to monitor the telephone calls and e-mails of Americans that the government is suspicious of?"
That more accurate wording of what the government is actually doing in the fight on terror gets a far warmer response from the public, with 76% in favor and only 21% against - figures that have gotten even stronger since CBS first asked the question in May 2003. It's no surprise the Times didn't publicize that part of its poll.
And here's Question 49: "How concerned are you, personally, that the government might choose to monitor your own phone calls or emails?"
Only 14% of respondents described themselves as "very concerned," while a strong plurality of 47% were "not at all concerned."
It seems that even after the Times' front-page scoop exposing anti-terrorist programs that monitored the communications of suspected terrorists, people are not convinced the Bush administration is the biggest threat they face in the world.