Half of Americans say the enhanced passenger security pat-downs at U.S. airports go too far, according to a poll published on Tuesday just before the busy holiday travel season.
But nearly two-thirds of those surveyed in the Washington Post-ABC News poll support the new full-body security-screening machines at the airports, as most say they put higher priority on preventing terrorism than protecting personal privacy.
The poll found that 50 percent said the new pat-down searches were unjustified, while 48 percent supported them and 2 percent had no opinion.
The recently adopted screening methods that have drawn complaints from passengers and lawmakers in Congress rely on highly revealing full-body imaging scanners and physical pat-downs for travelers who choose to opt out of the scans.
Airlines expect 24 million people to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday period. Airlines say they have passed along passenger concerns to the Transportation Security Administration, the agency responsible for the new procedures.
John Pistole, the head of the agency who has sought to blunt mounting criticism over intrusive body searches, has said U.S. authorities will reconsider the screening procedures, but he does not expect immediate changes.
TSA estimates that fewer than 2 percent of the 2 million passengers screened daily, or 40,000, are given the pat-downs.
With pilots allowed to carry guns and cockpits secured against hijacking threats after the 2001 hijack attacks on New York and Washington, screening in recent years has focused on sophisticated explosives that are hard to detect.
Authorities last month thwarted the bombing of U.S.-bound air cargo flights. A year ago a passenger tried to set off explosives in his underwear while on a flight to Detroit on Christmas Day. The Yemen-based group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for both plots.
Some people upset with the screening procedure have waged a campaign on the Internet urging travelers to refuse to use the scanners on Wednesday, the eve of Thanksgiving and one of the busiest travel days of the year.
According to the poll, 64 percent of those surveyed support the new scanning machines while 32 percent are opposed.
About a third of those surveyed see the new scanning machines as a potential health risk but most say that is not a major concern.
The poll found no significant differences between Democrats and Republicans on the issue. Most people said the new screening methods would not influence their decisions about whether to fly.
The poll was conducted on Nov. 21 among a random national sample of 514 adults, and there is an error margin of five percentage points.