Poll finds support for passenger profiling

More than half of Britons would support some kind of passenger profiling by the security services, a new poll suggests.

A survey for the Specatator finds that 55 per cent would back targeting counter-terrorism measures at people based on their background or appearance.

Twenty-nine per cent said they would not support such a move and 16 per cent said they did not know. Younger people were most likely to oppose profiling, the poll finds.

EU Commission vice-president Franco Frattini caused minor panic among government officials yesterday when he suggested European ministers were looking at passenger profiling on all European flights in the wake of last week’s security alert in London.

Reports last week suggested the Department for Transport was considering such a move, but ministers were quick to deny it after one of Britain’s top Muslim policemen said profiling would be akin to creating an offence of “travelling while Asian”.

And yesterday home secretary John Reid again insisted passenger profiling was not on the agenda – he said Mr Frattini’s comments had referred to biometric profiling, where the details of known suspects were circulated around EU transport networks.

“This is completely in accord with the policy that I outlined in our Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) reform plan only two weeks ago, and is a quite separate thing from profiling,” he told reporters at a press conference in London.

Mr Frattini concurred, saying: “It has nothing to do with religious beliefs, or discrimination. There have been no discussions on racial profiling.”

Today’s poll finds that 50 per cent of Britons believe most British Muslims are moderate, although a significant 28 per cent said they were not.

Elsewhere, two thirds believe Britain should change its foreign policy in response to the terrorist threat, with 53 per cent saying it should become tougher and just 12 per cent suggesting ministers should take a more conciliatory approach.

The survey reveals widespread pessimism about the threat facing the UK – just eight per cent think we are winning the so-called war on terror, while 86 per cent believe it is fairly or very likely that the country will be attacked within the next 12 months.

At the same time, however, a significant number of respondents expressed scepticism about the way the government dealt with this threat – 36 per cent think politicians exaggerate the threat, with two thirds believing it is because they are ill-informed.