As the 10th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks nears, American voters believe the attacks had a bigger effect on the United States than the Vietnam War, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the collapse of communism and the Watergate scandal.
That was one finding of a Fox News poll released Tuesday.
The poll listed five major events in the last 50 years and asked which impacted the country most. A 55-percent majority of voters says the 2001 terrorist attacks had the largest effect on the United States. That puts it far and away ahead of the next event -- the Vietnam War -- which comes in at 18 percent. Eight percent say the Kennedy assassination and the collapse of communism, and 2 percent say Watergate.
While young voters are more likely than older voters to view 9/11 as having the most significance, majorities of both groups put it above the impact of other major events.
Those voters most likely to say Vietnam had the biggest effect include Boomers between the ages of 55-64 years old (27 percent) and independents (25 percent).
The poll found most voters -- 75 percent -- think it is at least somewhat likely that another attack “causing large numbers of American lives to be lost” will happen in the near future.
Some 24 percent of voters think it is “very likely” a major attack will take place soon. That’s down from a high of 43 percent in 2007, and 31 percent in 2003.
Despite the widespread concern of another attack, a 54-percent majority of voters thinks the United States is safer today than before the Sept. 11 attacks, mostly unchanged from 53 percent a year ago (September 2010).
A third (33 percent) says the country is less safe. That’s up 3 percentage points from a year ago, and a 10-point increase from 23 percent who felt that way when the question was first asked in 2004. Eleven percent thinks the country is as safe today as it was before 9/11.
Roughly equal portions of voters think the U.S. is safer (21 percent) as a result of Usama bin Laden’s death as think the country is more at risk (19 percent). In 2004, a 63-percent majority thought the country would be safer if bin Laden were out of the picture.
The number saying the country is more at risk due to the al Qaeda leader’s death is down 11 points since May, when 30 percent felt the danger was greater. Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan by U.S. forces on May 2.
More voters think bin Laden’s death has not made much of a difference to the country’s security (58 percent) than felt that way in the days after his death (47 percent in May 2011).
In 2001, 73 percent of voters believed bin Laden was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Today 80 percent does. At the same time the number saying UBL wasn’t behind the attacks has doubled -- from 5 percent in 2001 to 11 percent in the new poll. The remaining 9 percent are unsure, down from 22 percent in Sept. 2001.
Did the U.S. overreact to the attacks? Majorities of voters agree with establishing the Dept. of Homeland Security (65 percent), increasing airport security (64 percent) and taking military action against Afghanistan (56 percent) in response to what happened on 9/11.
Measures most likely to be seen as an “overreaction” include taking military action against Iraq(40 percent “overreaction”) and water-boarding terrorist suspects (33 percent “overreaction”).
By a 49-34 percent margin, more voters think the U.S. has been effective -- not lucky -- in preventing terrorist attacks. That’s a reversal from last year when, after a botched bombing attempt in Times Square, 33 percent said the U.S. had been effective and 49 percent said it was pure luck (May 2010).
The Fox News poll is based on landline and cell phone interviews with 911 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide and was conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from August 29 to August 31.; For the total sample, it has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.