Californians fear government will trample civil liberties

The Associated Press
Friday January 18, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO — Many Californians are concerned government officials will trample on civil liberties in the fight against terrorism, according to a new poll. 

A survey by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California found that 51 percent of people questioned think the government is more likely to excessively restrict civil liberties than it is to fail to enact tough anti-terrorism laws. 

Slightly more than one third, 37 percent, are more concerned about the latter possibility. 

The poll, conducted from Dec. 26 to Jan. 10, posed questions to a random sample of 2,023 people on the social, economic and political forces shaping the state. It marks the first time since Sept. 11 the institute has probed Californians’ opinions about the anti-terrorism effort and civil liberties. 

“Californians by nature are civil libertarians,” said Mark Baldassare, a senior fellow at the institute. “They want the government to play as limited a role as possible in our daily lives.” 

Overall, 68 percent of those polled approve of Gov. Gray Davis’ handling of terrorism and security matters. 

Nearly two-thirds of those polled said they are unwilling to allow government agencies to monitor their telephone calls and e-mail on a regular basis. Slightly more than a third would be willing. 

The survey’s margin for error was plus or minus 2 percent.