Thursday, December 27, 2007

do we really hate the TSA?

just in time for holiday travel, a new ap/ipsos poll reports on americans' attitudes toward the transportation security administration. all the reporting on the poll implied that the agency is today as unpopular as the internal revenue service with the public. wondering how other agencies are faring, i looked up the topline results and graphed the percentage of americans reporting a very unfavorable or somewhat unfavorable impression of each agency or institution.

though it made for a nice travel story, i couldn't find much evidence to support claims about the transportation security administration's unpopularity. in the figure above, the irs is shown in grey, with 39 percent unfavorable, and the tsa is shown in yellow, with 25 percent unfavorable. the only agencies with lower unfavorables than the transportation security administration were the supreme court, the fbi, and the postal service. and we just love our postal service. the supreme court is always rated highly (at least in occupational prestige scales) and the fbi is typically the most trusted law enforcement agency, but i was surprised to see that homeland security had much higher negatives than the cia.

the figure above doesn't consider non-response, which varied greatly across the agencies. a full 19 percent had either never heard of the tsa (9 percent), couldn't rate it (9 percent), or didn't know how to answer the question (1 percent). folks were also reluctant to answer questions about the cia. in contrast, almost everybody could answer questions about the postal service and the department of education

were i to write a holiday story based on these results, i'd skip the whole we hate the TSA angle. instead, i'd craft a happy piece about our fine postal carriers and the cards and packages they deliver.

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