Americans continue to see Islamic extremist groups like al Qaeda as the top threat to the United States (78% see such groups as a major threat), but eight years after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 fewer feel it is necessary to sacrifice civil liberties to protect the country from terrorism. A few weeks after the attacks of 2001, 55% said it would be necessary for the average person to give up some civil liberties to fight terrorism. In January 2007, 40% said relinquishing civil liberties would be necessary. Today, just a quarter of Americans (27%) say giving up civil liberties is needed to curb terrorism; 65% say this is not necessary. The decline is especially sharp among Republicans. In 2007, 51% said it was necessary to sacrifice civil liberties; only about a third (34%) do so today. Opinions about warrentless searches of people who might be sympathetic to terrorists (a third approve) and denying free speech for terrorist sympathizers (half approve) have remained fairly consistent in recent years. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.