What a world: TSA more popular than Congress

Spokane Airport TSA

A majority of Americans believe the Transportation Security Administration is doing a good job, according to a new Gallup poll released Wednesday.

The poll shows that 54 percent think TSA is doing an excellent or good job of handling the screening responsibilities at U.S. airports. Just 30 percent rated the agency’s overall performance as fair.

Compare that to public opinion of Congress, which has an approval rating hovering around 16 percent.

“We asked a different question about TSA than we typically do about Congress,” said Jeff Jones, managing editor of the Gallup Poll. “But since the ratings of TSA are generally good and ratings of Congress are so low, I think it is safe to say people are more positive about TSA than about Congress.”

Jones said that may be because “it’s easier as a task to screen a passenger than to fix the economy.” While it’s more difficult to get on an airplane now than before 9/11, “the mission of the TSA seems to be something people are taking into account, which may be why they are more positive than negative about the TSA.”

When it comes to TSA’s effectiveness at preventing acts of terror on U.S. airplanes, 41 percent of Americans said TSA was extremely effective or very effective and 44 percent considered the agency only somewhat effective.

TSA administrator John Pistole said the poll “reaffirms TSA’s commitment to carrying out these responsibilities with efficiency, integrity and in a customer-friendly manner.”

The poll showing public support for TSA comes at a time when some members of Congress have been critical of the agency. Sen. Rand Paul (R.-Ky.) has advocated privatizing the airport screening program. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and who helped set up TSA after 9/11, has been an outspoken critic of the agency.

The Gallup poll on TSA performance found that just over half of Americans have flown at least once in the past year and that those who have flown had a slightly better opinion of TSA’s performance than those who haven’t been inside an airport recently.

Fifty-seven percent of Americans who have flown at least once in past year and an equal number who have flown at least three times in the past year gave the TSA excellent or good marks. Of those who stayed out of airports, 52 percent ranked the TSA’s performance as excellent or good.

A majority of parents with children 18 and under at home — 54 percent — gave TSA an excellent or good rating, about the same as those who do not have children at home. Gallup researchers found this significant, given that in the fall of 2011 TSA revised and relaxed its rules for screening children age 12 and under.

The Gallup poll results are based on a telephone interviews conducted July 9-12, 2012, with a random sample of 1,014 U.S. adults.

According to the TSA Blog , during the week this Gallup poll was taken, TSA officers found seven guns, a six-bladed throwing star and 27 guns (26 of them loaded) at airport checkpoints around the country.