Americans appear to have mixed feelings about President George W. Bush's proposal to create a new Cabinet department for homeland security -- and about how effective such as department can be. At least, that's the impression left by the 300-plus people who responded to our June 7 Reader Survey.
For instance, while 43% of those who participated support the creation of the new Cabinet department, 44% say they don't. Around 52% think the new department, which would group together agencies employing 169,000 employees that currently are in other departments, will be a "bureaucratic nightmare," vs. the 41% who think it's either the ideal solution or the best way to act quickly.
Some 25% of those who responded think that neither the FBI nor the CIA should be included in the new department -- as the President proposed -- while 43% think that both should be included.
Some 42% think the increased surveillance of all Americans that's inherent in the new plan amounts to "an abuse of federal power," though 19% see no problem with such prying, and 33% think it's not ideal, but is necessary.
Once the President's changes are in place, 54% of the repondents think the government will be much more or somewhat more prepared to fend off terrorist attacks, though 43% think it will be no more prepared.
Finally, a clear majority -- 60% -- would prefer to see Congress thoroughly debate the merits of the new plan, while 31% would opt instead for less debate and quick action.
Here are the full details of the survey, which, as always, wasn't a scientific poll, since anyone who wished to could participate:
Do you support the President's proposal to create a new Cabinet department for homeland security?
What statement best describes your opinion of the proposal to organize disparate federal agencies under one roof?
It's the right solution
It isn't ideal, but it's the best way to get something done quickly
It'll be a bureaucratic nightmare
The new department, as described by the President, would include neither the FBI nor the CIA. Do you think:
Neither should be included
The CIA should be included
The FBI should be included
Both should be included
Would you prefer to see a thorough debate over such issues in Congress, or quick bipartisan approval, with the details to be tied up later?
As part of its homeland-defense effort, the government will have expanded surveillance powers over both U.S. citizens and visitors to the country. Do you think this is:
Not ideal, but necessary
An abuse of federal power
Once all the proposed changes are in place, how much more prepared do you think the government will be to fend off terrorism?
Much more prepared
Somewhat more prepared
No more prepared