July 1, 1999
MEMORANDUM FOR THE RECORD
Director, Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO)
Highlights of results of survey,
In response to requests for further information about the results of ISOO's most recent survey, "What Do Americans Need to Know," I have prepared this brief information sheet. Time permitting, we may follow up with more detailed descriptions and analyses of our findings. This document summarizes by providing highlights of our general and specific findings, followed by the background for conducting the survey.
"What Do Americans Need to Know?"
- Americans believe strongly in the general public's need to know about most information that the Federal Government creates or collects.
- Americans believe most strongly in the general public's need to know information that they believe may affect them personally.
- National or global information issues are not deemed as important to know as are local information issues.
- Even among those who do not work with classified information, there was limited interest in the need to know those categories of information that the Government is most likely to keep classified.
- There was widespread consistency among all groups in their ratings of the need to know each of the categories of information. There was only a very modest variation in results depending on gender, age, and whether or not the individual worked with classified information.
- The respondents, taken as a whole, ranked the importance of the general public's need to know the twelve categories in the following order, from most important to least important:
(1) The foreign and domestic airports that are most vulnerable to terrorism.
(2) The names and addresses of paroled violent offenders.
(3) Everything the U.S. Government knows about POWs/MIAs.
(4) The exact location of all nuclear waste sites.
(5) Break-ins to financial institutions by computer hackers.
(6) Everything the U.S. Government knows about human rights abuses.
(7) Foreign governments that are spying on U.S. companies.
(8) Every document that is arguably related to the JFK/MLK assassinations.
(9) Personal information about candidates for President and Vice President.
(10) Everything the U.S. Government knows about UFOs.
(11) The CIA's total dollar budget request to Congress for the upcoming year.
(12) What goes on at the secret Government site in the Nevada desert.
- The average ratings of the 12 categories fall into several distinct groupings. Numbers 1-3, above, each received an average rating slightly higher than a 3.0, "Important for the General Public to Know." The average ratings of numbers 4-9, above, ranged from slightly below a 2.8 to slightly above a 2.5. In other words, the average rating for each of these six categories was closer to a 3.0 than to a 2.0, "Of Minimal Importance for the General Public to Know." Number 10, above, had an average rating slightly below a 2.5. Number 11, above, had an average rating slightly below a 2.0. Number 12, above, had an average rating slightly above 1.0, the "General Public Does Not Need to Know."
- The mode (most frequent response) for the categories above was as follows:
(a) Nos. 1-4, 4; (b) Nos. 5-9, 3; (c) Nos. 10-11, 2; and (d) No. 12, 0.
- Among the major groupings of respondents, i.e., men, women, people who work with classified information, people who do not work with classified information, people born in 1945 or before, people born between 1946-1963, and people born after 1963, there existed a surprisingly high degree of consistency in their rankings of the twelve categories of information. Every group rated the vulnerability of airports to terrorism as the category with the highest need to know, what goes on in the Nevada desert as the least important to know, and the CIA's proposed budget as the second least important to know.
- Among the other rankings of specific categories, the most significant variations included the following: (a) most major groups ranked the exact location of nuclear waste sites the 4th most important to know; however, men ranked it as the 7th most important to know; and people born in 1945 or before ranked it as the 8th most important to know, while people born after 1963 ranked it as the 2nd most important to know; (b) while just about every other major group ranked personal information about candidates for President and Vice President as the 9th most important to know, people born in 1945 or before ranked it as the 5th most important to know; and (c) while every other major group ranked every document that is arguably related to the JFK/MLK assassinations as either the 7th or 8th most important to know, men ranked it as the 4th most important to know, and people who work with classified information ranked it as the 5th most important to know.
- We created a ranking measure pertinent to this particular survey which we call the "openness quotient." The openness quotient of each group was determined by the totality of its ratings for all 12 categories of information. The higher the ratings, the higher the openness quotient. The "openness quotient" of the twelve specific groupings of respondents ranged from a high of 2.833 for women born in 1945 or before who do not work with classified information to a low of 2.367 for men born after 1963 who work with classified information.
- Women have a higher openness quotient than men, people who do not work with classified information have a higher openness quotient than those who do work with classified information, and a person's openness quotient increases with age. Somewhat surprising, however, men who work with classified information have a slightly higher openness quotient than women who work with classified information.
- Of the three variables collected, gender, age group, and whether one worked with classified information or not, the latter had the greatest impact on an individual's ratings, followed by age group. The overall differences were still relatively modest. Gender had only a very modest impact on the ratings.
- While the deviations in the ratings were modest for every major group of respondents, the ratings of baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1963) stood out from the other major groups as by far the most consistent.
- Of the almost 10,000 individual ratings we received: 8% were 0's, the "General Public Should Not Know;" 12% were 1's, the "General Public Does Not Need to Know;" 21% were 2's, "Of Minimal Importance for General Public to Know;"
32% were 3's, "Important for the General Public to Know;" and 27% were 4's, "Extremely Important for the General Public to Know."
Between the months of March - May 1999, ISOO both distributed and encouraged the reproduction and further distribution of the attached survey form entitled "What Do Americans Need to Know?" The primary purpose was to gather data for a program that we are presenting on this date at the National Training Seminar of the National Classification Management Society (NCMS). As the reader can glean from the form, the survey asked the respondent to consider twelve items of information, and to assign to each category one of five ratings, from 0, the "General Public Should Not Know"
to 4, "Extremely Important for General Public to Know." We asked each respondent to remain anonymous, but to note whether or not he or she worked with classified information, whether the respondent was a man or woman, and into which of three age groups the respondent fell: (a) born before 1946; (b) born between 1946 and 1963; and (c) born after 1963. The middle age group is what is popularly known as the "baby boomers," and the first and third age groups represent respectively the generations that came before and after the boomers.
We received over 800 completed responses by the time we began analyzing the data. We were able to use 768 of them after discarding the relatively few that did not include information on the requested variables or otherwise did not follow the directions. We grouped the usable survey forms into 12 separate categories, based on age, gender, and whether the individual worked with classified information. We analyzed the data based on these groupings, and on the larger groupings that result from combining data from groups that share one or more variables, e.g., all men, all women, all baby boomers, etc. While the number of completed surveys for each grouping varied, we received a sufficient number in each of the groupings to achieve what we believed to be a satisfactory sample.
We analyzed the data based on mean, median, mode, frequency, standard deviation, average deviation, and ranking of the responses by each group for each category. We also created a ranking measure pertinent to the results of this particular survey which we call the "openness quotient." The openness quotient of each group was determined by the totality of its ratings for all 12 categories of information. The higher the ratings, the higher the openness quotient.
Contact Steven Garfinkel at ISOO, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Room 100, Washington, DC 20408; telephone (202) 219-5250; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.