Poll: Feeling Safe Is Not the Same as Winning


Published September 10, 2002

| FoxNews.com

While a majority of Americans feels as safe or safer today than before Sept. 11, the public is unclear on whether the U.S. is winning the war on terror.

In the latest Fox News poll, conducted Sept. 8-9 by Opinion Dynamics Corporation, fewer Americans think the U.S. is winning the war against terrorism (36 percent) than think we're losing (43 percent), with the remaining 21 percent undecided. The number thinking the U.S. is winning has dropped significantly since late November 2001 (67 percent "winning"), as Americans have become less clear about the war on terrorism and as debate over Iraq clouds the waters.

Winning or not, almost half say they feel as safe now as they did before the terrorist attacks, and another 16 percent feel safer than before Sept. 11. Similarly, concern has lessened that a terrorist attack might happen in the vicinity of home or work.

Today, 20 percent of the public say they are worried about a terrorist attack in their neighborhood, down from a high of 43 percent in October 2001. One illustration of this sense of safety is the lack of individual preparedness. Not many Americans (17 percent) say they have made any actual emergency plans in the event terrorist attacks were to happen near them.

About half consider chemical or biological weapons to be the biggest threat right now (51 percent) followed by nukes (19 percent) and car bombs (14 percent). Only four percent see a re-play of planes being intentionally crashed as the biggest threat today. Overall these results are consistent with reaction soon after the attacks, with the notable exception of a 10-point increase in seeing nuclear weapons as the main threat.

If an attack were to happen in their area, Americans are fairly confident in their local authorities' readiness to handle it. Over half (58 percent) think their local officials are prepared, with 17 percent saying "very prepared." About one-third (31 percent) say local authorities are unprepared (18 percent "not very" and 13 percent "not at all" prepared).

A majority thinks another attack this year on Sept. 11 is unlikely (22 somewhat unlikely and 44 not at all likely), and only seven percent think an attack on the anniversary is very likely.

The public remains confident in the safety of air travel in the country (82 percent say "somewhat" or "very" safe). Confidence was almost this high last October (78 percent said at least somewhat safe), only one month after the attacks. Even so, almost one-quarter say they would re-schedule if they were booked to fly on the Sept. 11 anniversary.

Immediately following the attacks, majorities were in favor of several measures that had been proposed as ways to curb terrorism, such as racial profiling and monitoring of e-mails. Support has fallen in each of these areas, with the largest drop of support in government monitoring of private telephone and e-mail communications (from 54 percent to 38 percent).

There was also a drop in the number of Americans willing to "give up some of your personal freedom" to help fight terrorism. Today, 61 percent say they would be willing to give up some personal freedom to reduce the threat of terrorism, down from 71 percent last October.

President Bush's approval rating remains strong at 66 percent (22 percent disapprove). Even though the president's rating has declined from the incredibly high marks he received following the attacks (88 percent approval in November), his current rating is still several points higher than before Sept. 11.

Majorities also approve of the job other Bush administration officials are doing. Top marks go to Secretary of State Colin Powell (80 percent approve), followed by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (63 percent approve) and Attorney General John Ashcroft (60 percent approve).

The most common ways people plan to observe the Sept. 11 anniversary are through prayer (27 percent), displaying the flag (18 percent) and by attending memorial ceremonies (16 percent). Eleven percent plan to stay home from work, and 19 percent say they will not do anything specific to commemorate the anniversary.

Polling was conducted by telephone September 8-9, 2002 in the evenings. The sample is 900 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of ± 3 percentage points.

1. Do you approve or disapprove of the job George W. Bush is doing as president?

8-9 Sep 0266%2212
6-7 Aug 0269%2011
23-24 Jul 0269%1813
9-10 Jul 0270%1911
18-19 Jun 0273%1413

2. Do you approve or disapprove of the job Donald Rumsfeld is doing as secretary of defense?

8-9 Sep 0263%1720
30-31 Jan 0277%914
12-13 Dec 0178%616
28-29 Nov 0180%416
14-15 Nov 0178%517
17-18 Oct 0175%718

3. Do you approve or disapprove of the job John Ashcroft is doing as attorney general?

8-9 Sep 0260%1723
4-5 June 0259%1823
12-13 Dec 0169%1219
28-29 Nov 0169%823

4. Do you approve or disapprove of the job Colin Powell is doing as secretary of state?

8-9 Sep 0280%911
16-17 Apr 0282%711
17-18 Oct 0187%58

5. On the national level, are you more concerned about the economy or about national security?
SCALE: 1. U.S. economy 2. National security 3. (Both) 4. (Neither) 5. (Not sure)

8-9 Sep 0232%313511
6-7 Aug 0239%33271-
12-13 Feb 0235%352811

6. What do you plan to do to observe the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks? (OPEN ENDED)

(Say a prayer/attend a religious service)27%
(Won’t do anything to observe anniversary)19
(Wear or display flag/red-white-and-blue)18
(Attend a memorial service)16
(Stay at home/not work)11
(Visit fire station, police station)2
(Donate money, food, or clothing)2
(Donate blood)2
(Watch TV)2
(Moment of silence)1
(Not sure)9

7. Do you feel as safe today as you did before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, less safe today, or do you actually feel safer today than before Sept. 11?

 8-9 Sep 0212-13 Mar 02
1. As safe today as before 9/1146%42%
2. Less safe3535
3. Safer than before 9/111618
4. (Not sure)35

8. Do you think the federal government is taking the threat of future terrorist activity in the U.S. seriously enough or not seriously enough?

1. Yes, the government is taking terrorist threats seriously enough74%
2. No, the government is not taking terrorist threats seriously enough20
3. (Not sure)6

9. As of right now, do you think the U.S. and its allies are winning the war against terrorism?

8-9 Sep 0236%4321
28-29 Nov 0167%1518
14-15 Nov 0162%1820
17-18 Oct 0147%3221

10. How well prepared do you think your local authorities are to handle a terrorist attack in your area?

 8-9 Sep 029-10 Jul 02
1. Very well prepared17%16%
2. Somewhat prepared4141
3. Not very prepared1820
4. Not at all prepared1315
5. (Not sure)118

11. How safe do you believe air travel is in the United States today?
SCALE: 1. Very safe 2. Somewhat safe 3. Not very safe 4. Not safe at all 5. (Not sure)

 VerySomewhatNot very Not at all(NS)
8-9 Sep 0233%49945
14-15 Nov 0130%461473
17-18 Oct 0135%431273

12. If you were scheduled to take a plane this coming Wednesday, Sept. 11, would you:

1. Fly as scheduled that day, or64%
2. Reschedule the flight for another day?22
3. (Never fly)11
4. (Not sure)3

13. How likely do you think it is that a terrorist attack will take place in the United States again this year on Sept. 11?

1. Very likely7%
2. Somewhat likely19
3. Not very likely22
4. Not at all likely44
5. (Not sure)8

14. How worried are you that terrorist attacks might take place where you live or work?
SCALE: 1. Very worried 2. Somewhat worried 3. Not very worried 4. Not worried at all 5. (Not sure)

 VerySomewhatNot veryNot at all(NS)
8-9 Sep 026%1421572
9-10 Jul 0211%2434301
12-13 Dec 0111%2631311
17-18 Oct 0112%3128281
19-20 Sep 0111%2431331

15.-18. How important do you think each of the following is as a goal of the U.S. military action in Afghanistan?
SCALE: 1. Very important 2. Somewhat important 3. Not very important 4. Not at all important 5. (Not sure)

Capturing or killing Usama bin Laden

 VerySomewhatNot veryNot at all(NS)
8-9 Sep 0259%26843
9-10 Jul 0263%22834
26-27 Feb 0259%27743
14-15 Nov 0173%20322

Participating in peacekeeping activities

 VerySomewhatNot veryNot at all(NS)
8-9 Sep 0262%27524
9-10 Jul 0255%34533

Tracking down members of Al Qaeda and other terrorists

 VerySomewhatNot veryNot at all(NS)
8-9 Sep 0276%17322
9-10 Jul 0274%20312

19. Forgetting any issues of age or health, if it were to become necessary to defend America, would you be willing to fight and, if need be, die in this war against terrorism?
SCALE: 1. Yes, I would 2. No, I would not 3. (Not sure)

8-9 Sep 0274%1610
18-19 Jun 0274%179
3-4 Oct 0176%159
3-4 Jun 98*74%188

* Wording: "If the United States were under a military threat from a foreign country, would you be willing to fight and, if need be, die for your country?"

20. (ASK IF "NO" ON Q19, N=142) If there were an actual threat of America being taken over by a terrorist regime, would you be willing to fight and, if need be, die in the war against terrorism?

1. Yes, I would39%
2. No, I would not53
3. (Not sure)8

21. Which terrorist activity do you think is the biggest threat right now?

 8-9 Sep 0217-18 Oct 01
1. Chemical or biological weapons51%62%
2. Truck or car bombs1414
3. Planes being hijacked and crashed45
4. Tactical nuclear weapons or dirty bombs199
5. (Something else/Not sure)1210

22.-26. Please tell me if you favor or oppose each of the following possible solutions that have been proposed as ways of dealing with terrorism.

Allowing police to stop and search anyone who fits the general description of suspected terrorists.


8-9 Sep 0262%317
28-29 Nov 0158%366
19-20 Sep 0169%265

Rationing gasoline and oil to reduce the country's dependence on imports of Middle East oil.

8-9 Sep 0245%478
28-29 Nov 0139%5110
19-20 Sep 0153%407

Allowing the government to increase monitoring of private telephone and e-mail communications.

8-9 Sep 0238%539
28-29 Nov 0140%528
19-20 Sep 0154%397

Allowing the government to hold suspected terrorists as long as deemed necessary without a trial, possibly a year or more.

8-9 Sep 02*67%267
28-29 Nov 01*66%268
31 Oct-1 Nov 0183%125

*added "without a trial"

Imposing stricter immigration and border crossing policies.

8-9 Sep 0288%75
19-20 Sep 0192%53

27. Have you or members of your family made any emergency plans, such as stocking up on food and water, or mapping an escape route, in case a terrorist attack were to take place in your area?

1. Yes17%
2. No83
3. (Not sure)-

28. Would you be willing to give up some of your personal freedom in order to reduce the threat of terrorism?

8-9 Sep 0261%2415
4-5 June 0264%2115
17-18 Oct 0171%209
9-10 May 0133%4027
7-8 Aug 9660%3010

29. Right after Sept. 11, many people noted increased feeling of patriotism and neighborliness. Since then, do you think those feelings have faded:

 8-9 Sep 0218-19 Jun 0212-13 Mar 02
1. A little,34%34%32%
2. Some, but not a lot,303733
3. A lot, but not completely, or101310
4. Have those feelings completely faded?312
5. (Have not faded at all)191219
6. (Not sure)324
7. (Never felt)11-