WASHINGTON – An overwhelming majority of Americans are angry and very willing to support President Bush in his planned war on terrorism, the first surveys of public opinion after Tuesday's attacks show.
Retired Army veteran Clarence Johnson of Louisiana says it's not hard to understand the public's emotional turmoil. "If somebody came and hit you upside the head, what would your reaction be?"
About four in five people in the polls support military action to avenge Tuesday's terrorist attacks, think more terrorist attacks in this country are at least somewhat likely and approve of the job being done by President Bush.
Polls taken by ABC-Washington Post, CBS, CNN-Time Magazine and NBC all reflected the huge margins favoring a strong military response and backing the president. The polls taken in the days since the bombing had error margins of plus or minus 3 to 4 percentage points.
Those numbers don't drop much even if people are reminded that a military response could start a broader war.
While the polls reflect a strongly united front, people reacted very differently to the horror of the attacks.
Maryland retiree Dorothy Lanham has been weeping at home as she watched TV reports. Patient aide Tonya Evans of Louisville, Ky., has been praying for the victims and their families. Computer worker Michael Callahan of Macomb, Mich., lowered the flag at his home to half-staff.
By more than a 2-1 margin, people said they were more concerned that the country would underreact, not overreact. Some, however, want the U.S. military response to be carefully targeted.
"I hope our response is measured," Callahan said. "I don't see where you can go in and carpet-bomb a country. It will take a combination of political sanctions, economic sanctions and military maneuvers."
Two-thirds said they thought the attacks were worse than Pearl Harbor. Even some of those old enough to remember Pearl Harbor agreed.
"I knew Pearl Harbor was an awful thing, but it was far away," said 78-year-old retiree Lanham. "You didn't see it like you do today."
Some other key findings of the polls:
– Terrorism was considered the top problem faced by the country today, far ahead of the economy.
– About nine in 10 favored tougher safeguards for air travel, even if they means long delays.
– Large majorities said the attacks made them more likely to show more appreciation of loved ones, fly the flag, pray more and donate blood.
– Nine in 10 said they had faith the U.S. will recover from the attacks and move on.
"We've been pretty naive as a people," said insurance worker Joseph Richmond of Tampa, Fla. "But we've gotten our wake-up call