This is according to a poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. It builds upon work done in 2011 ten years after the pivotal moment of U.S. History. A few questions were also included in polls that were conducted in 2013-2015.
Americans agreed that the government had done a good job protecting basic rights 10 years after the terrorist attacks. This led to a major overhaul of the intelligence services of the country and the creation of new agencies like the Department of Homeland Security. While Americans generally remain positive, there was a growing concern about government overreach.
This attitude has declined over the years, and far fewer people say that the government does a good job protecting rights, including freedom of speech, voting rights, and the right to keep an eye on others.
According to the poll, 45% of Americans believe the U.S. government does a good job protecting freedom of speech. 32% say it is doing a poor job, and 23% say neither. The percentage of Americans who believe the government does a good job has fallen from 71% in 2011 to 59% in 2015.
Dee Geddes (73), a retired woman in Chamberlain, South Dakota said that she was frustrated by the government's apparent inability to protect the private information, especially online.
It bothers me that I can access the internet to find out anything about anyone. It makes me feel kind of naked," Geddes, a Republican, said. It does bother me that the government knows so much about us. But that is due to the fact there's so many out there. It is discouraging.
Half of respondents now believe the government does a good job protecting religious freedom, compared to three quarters who did the same in 2011.
49% to 27% of Americans believe that the government does a worse job than it does at protecting equal protection under the law. 2011 saw a shift in opinions, with 48% of Americans saying that the government did a better job than 37%.
This poll found that 54% of Americans believe it is sometimes necessary for the government "to sacrifice some rights or freedoms in order to combat terrorism" compared to 64% a decade back. 44% of respondents say it's not necessary.
A majority of Democrats believe it's sometimes needed, consistent with previous AP/NORC polls. However, Republicans are still divided with 46% saying that it's sometimes needed and 53% saying that it's never necessary. It was said by 69% of Republicans in 2011, and 62% in 2015.
Brandon Wilson, a 23-year-old business and animation student at College of DePage, Glen Ellyn, Illinois, described himself as conservative. He said that while he understands that the steps taken following Sept. 11, 2001 may initially seem to restrict Americans' rights but that ultimately he felt that the actions were for the greater good.
Wilson stated that he believes increased screening for airline passengers is a good idea. "The government is trying to improve people's lives and helping the general population," Wilson said.
On the whole, though, Americans have grown more wary of government surveillance in the name of national security, the poll shows.
The poll asked about a range of rights and liberties. This included many of the ones outlined in the Constitution's Bill of Rights as well as those protected by laws or court rulings.
The survey found that 44% of respondents now believe the government does a good job protecting freedom of expression. 26% think the government is doing an inadequate job. About 6 out of 10 people said that the government was doing an excellent job in both 2011 and 2015.
The opinions of Americans on the government's ability to protect freedom from unreasonable search or seizure are almost equally divided. One-third of Americans believe it is doing a good or excellent job, while one-third think it is doing a terrible job. Although the views of Americans were somewhat more positive in 2011 than 2015, less than half said that the country is doing a good or excellent job.
Tony Gay, 60, is a retired man who lives in Cincinnati and said that he supports the government's efforts to protect civil liberties. His 10 years of Army service reinforced his belief that sometimes sacrifices are necessary to protect freedoms.
Gay stated that freedom is not possible 24/7 without someone protecting it. "So, when they place restrictions on travel, it's because it's to ensure that I'm secure, and that the person next me is safe.
43% of Americans believe the U.S. government does a good job protecting the vote. 37% think it is doing a poor job. In comparison, 71% said it did a good job in 2015 while 84% said the exact same thing in 2011.
Americans are also divided over whether the government is doing an adequate or poor job protecting the right of bear arms. 35% to 36% say so, while 57% to 27% said that it was doing a better job in 2011.
Democrats are more likely to believe that the government is protecting several rights and liberties, such as the freedom to worship and expression, and the right to keep, bear, and bear arms.
However, Democrats are more likely to believe that the government is not doing a good job of enforcing equal protection as required by the law than Republicans (54% to 46%). The views of Republicans and Democrats are similar in how the government protects the right to vote. However, the opinions have changed significantly from the earlier polls.
Gay stated that even though he is comfortable with the government protecting basic civil liberties, he believes periodic review of policies and the people who make them should be done.
Gay stated, "It's almost like when you are in politics, you have full rein." "It gives us mixed feelings about who watches over us," Gay said.