Fox News Poll

Fox News poll: After Boston, most approve of government's handling of terrorism

Majorities of voters approve of how law enforcement, the White House and the media handled the Boston Marathon bombings.  

And despite the new attack on U.S. soil, most give positive marks to the government for its handling of terrorism, and rank terrorism far below the economy on Washington’s to do list.

That’s according to a Fox News national poll released Tuesday.

Two explosions at the Boston Marathon finish line on April 15 killed three and injured over 250.  Within days, law enforcement identified two suspects and their pictures appeared across all media.  By week’s end, one suspect was dead and the other captured.  The media gave the manhunt saturation coverage.

Virtually all voters -- 91 percent -- approve of law enforcement’s handling of the Boston bombings, and most -- 71 percent -- approve of the Obama administration’s performance.  A 55-percent majority approves of the job the media did.  

More generally, 69 percent approve of the job the government is doing protecting them from terrorism.  That’s up significantly from 50 percent the last time the question was asked on a Fox poll near the end of George W. Bush’s second term.  

Partisanship appears to explain much of that shift.  Democrats and independents are much more inclined to approve now.  Approval among Republicans has dropped since President Obama took office, but not nearly as much as it has increased among Democrats and independents.

Fully 82 percent of Democrats approve of the government on terrorism in the new poll.  That’s more than twice as many as in 2007 (40 percent).  For independents, approval is 71 percent now, up from 36 percent.  For Republicans, 55 percent approve today, down from 69 percent in 2007.

Throughout his term Obama has consistently received positive marks for his handling of terrorism, and he captures his best ratings on the issue today:  a 55-percent majority approves, while 37 percent disapprove.  That’s almost identical to the ratings he received both earlier this year and last year.  Obama garnered his highest ratings on terrorism -- 71 percent -- after the killing of Usama bin Laden in May 2011.  

On most other issues, like the economy and immigration, the president receives negative job ratings.  The only area other than terrorism where he currently receives positive marks is on North Korea (45 percent approve, 36 percent disapprove).

For Obama’s overall job performance, 47 percent of voters approve, while 45 percent disapprove.  Last month it was 47-47 percent.

In the wake of the Boston bombings, few voters say terrorism is the country’s most important issue.  Instead, by far, it is the economy:  42 percent feel that way.  The only other issue in double-digits is the federal deficit at 17 percent.  That’s followed by terrorism (9 percent) and health care (7 percent).  

The issues Washington has prioritized recently are near the bottom of voters’ list:  five percent say gun control is the top issue and four percent say immigration.  

Finally, in an example of the outpouring of support after the bombings, the poll finds about one voter in seven is now considering going to Boston either to run (2 percent) or watch (13 percent) the marathon.  

The Fox News poll is based on landline and cell phone interviews with 1,009 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide and was conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from April 20 to April 22.  The full poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.