Poll: 70 percent of Americans applaud air-security effort

Dec. 9, 2008
TSA receives high approval ratings from flyers

WASHINGTON -- Americans may not like the process of getting through airport security, but 70% of the public says the federal government is doing an excellent or good job protecting air travel, a new survey shows.

That's the highest score given to any of 20 government functions rated in a September-October survey of 2,800 people.

The survey, conducted by a non-profit group that works to increase public support for federal agencies, found that direct contact with an agency made people more approving, which may explain the high rating for aviation security, said Max Stier, CEO of the Partnership for Public Service, which hired Gallup to do the project.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screens 2 million people a day at 450 airports.

"I thought we were up there with the IRS as the hated organization," said Don Thomas, a TSA screener at Orlando International Airport and union leader.

"My impression is that people still find the security experience a big hassle," said Robert Poole, a TSA critic and transportation analyst at the Reason Foundation, a Los Angeles think tank.

TSA spokeswoman Ellen Howe called the results "a validation of the effort our officers put forth." The TSA has tried recently to elevate its image, outfitting screeners with royal-blue shirts and badges, and encouraging friendlier interaction with travelers.

"We're communicating with them better, answering their questions instead of being evasive," Thomas said.

Participants were less impressed with another Homeland Security Department function: enforcing immigration laws. Just 13% rated that as excellent or good.

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