In the wake of the tragedies on Sept. 11, 2001, Karen wondered how different segments of the U.S. population were reacting to the various anti-terrorism measures and proposals. She especially wanted to get a handle on how tolerant Americans were toward the prospect of civil liberties getting eroded by new homeland-security efforts.

To find out, she amalgamated and statistically analyzed 16 different public-opinion polls, with a total of 15,000 responses. "I looked for stratifications in views on the basis of political philosophy, ethnicity, and urban vs. non-urban residency," Karen explains. "Then I extended my analysis and compared those liberty-vs.-security opinions to views on related sociopolitical issues, such as our military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Since urban areas are the main targets of terrorist attacks, are city dwellers more accepting than rural people of security reforms that would restrict civil liberties? Nope. Just the opposite, Karen reports. "Remember, cities tend to be very liberal places, so urbanites are more inclined to oppose threats to civil liberties." Indeed, political persuasion emerged as the overriding factor affecting attitudes everywhere. Many Americans seem ready to follow their party's leaders almost blindly, Karen says, "probably because that's the easy thing to do."

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COMMENTS On The Issues

Education: I think it's important for students to realize that original research need not apply just to obscure, eclectic topics. While I am impressed beyond belief by some of the more technical [Intel STS] projects, I hope that a project like mine will help encourage students to seek a deeper understanding of any topic that interests them. If nothing else, my project has shown me that the most important aspect of education — and possibly the most important endeavor in life — is the exploration of one's passions.


Karen L. Geringer

Plainedge High School
North Massapequa, N.Y.

Hobbies: Ballet, clarinet, writing, watching The West Wing

Ambition: Political science or English