Poll says security, liberty are concerns THE OKLAHOMA CITY BOMBING

April 30, 1995|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- Even after the Oklahoma City bombing, Americans' concerns about terrorism are strongly bounded by fears that a crackdown could endanger civil liberties, a Los Angeles Times poll has found.

Although the survey found strong support for specific measures to tighten surveillance of suspected terrorists, it also suggests that Americans are ambivalent about signing over individual freedoms in the quest for greater security from terrorist violence.

Americans say they would be willing to give up some civil liberties to bolster the fight against terrorism. But 70 percent say they are worried that new laws may restrict civil liberties.

These concerns are substantially more pronounced among conservatives than liberals -- a finding that might help explain why the Republican-controlled Congress is planning to examine anti-terrorism proposals at a more measured pace after promising breakneck action.

By a margin of more than 9-to-1, Americans credit President Clinton for an effective response to the catastrophe. And the survey found Americans much more reluctant to blame anyone other than the principal suspect, Timothy McVeigh, and the militia movement to which he has been linked.

Majorities reject the idea that talk show hosts, conservatives in Congress or gun-control opponents bear responsibility for creating a climate that encouraged the tragedy. Even the militias are fingered with substantial responsibility by only about half of those surveyed.

The poll surveyed 1,032 adults Wednesday and Thursday; it has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Almost half of those polled say terrorism is a serious problem in the United States. About as many also say they expect terrorist attacks like the bombing to be common in the future.

Half of those polled say the attack has shaken their personal sense of security. Perhaps most revealing, just 35 percent say they worry about terrorism while they are in public places -- while 64 percent say they do not.

As a general proposition, those surveyed consider anti-terrorism laws too weak. Just 21 percent say existing laws are adequate to the challenge, while 4 percent say they are too strong.

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