Most Americans can correctly identify the current status of the nation’s alert level, and overwhelmingly people say they are continuing to go about their daily lives even after the level was recently increased.

In the latest FOX News national poll, an impressive 84 percent of Americans correctly identified the country’s current alert level, up from only 22 percent answering correctly about six months ago.  Those living in the Northeast were most likely to know the alert level (92 percent), while those living in the West were least likely to know the correct status (79 percent).

The color-coded Homeland Security Advisory System was announced in March 2002 and at that time was set at a threat condition of yellow/elevated.  Before being increased to orange/high earlier this month, the threat level had remained at yellow (“significant risk of terrorist attacks”) for the past 11 months except for a two-week period around the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks when it was elevated to orange (“high risk of terrorist attacks”).

The FOX News poll, conducted by Opinion Dynamics Corporation, also found that today half of the public thinks the color-coded alert system is helpful, up from 39 percent less than three months ago (November 2002).  Overall, 71 percent approve of the job the government is doing protecting the country from terrorism and 19 percent disapprove.

Almost all Americans say they went about life as usual after the recent increase in the alert level, with only nine percent saying they had “made some changes” in response to the announcement.  If the alert level were increased to the top level of red or “severe,” more think they would make some changes.  Just over 4 in 10 say they would change their plans if the country hits the “severe” threat level, but even at the highest threat level a slim majority says they would go about business as usual (53 percent). 

"Interestingly, people have become more aware of the system, but seem to be more relaxed about it," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman.  "While people can be constantly aware of the threat, they cannot be constantly taking action…eventually they just have to go about their lives."

The survey does show an increase in the number of people who feel their lives are at risk and who are taking action to prepare for possible terrorist attacks.  In September 2002, a year after the 9/11 attacks, 17 percent said they had made emergency plans in case of a terrorist attack in their area.  Slightly more today, 24 percent, say their family has made plans to prepare for acts of terrorism (10 percent have made emergency plans in case of war with Iraq).

Today, one-third say they think their life is in danger due to terrorism, up from 25 percent in June of last year.

Polling was conducted by telephone February 11-12, 2003 in the evenings. The sample is 900 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of ± 3 percentage points. Results are of registered voters, unless otherwise noted.

1. Do you approve or disapprove of the job the government is doing to protect the country from terrorism?

  Approve Disapprove (DK)
11-12 Feb 03 71% 19 10

2. Do you think the government's color-coded terror alert system is helpful or not?

  Helpful Not helpful (Not sure)
11-12 Feb 03 50% 37 13
19-20 Nov 02 39% 41 20

3. Do you think most people take these terror alerts seriously or do they ignore them?
SCALE: 1. People take alerts seriously 2. People ignore them 3. (Not sure)

  Seriously Ignore (Not sure)
11-12 Feb 03 48% 42 10
19-20 Nov 02 37% 50 13
12-13 Dec 01* 67% 25 8

* ". . . people continue to take these alerts seriously . . ."

4. Last week the federal government changed the level of alert in the "Homeland Security Advisory System." Do you happen to know what color or alert level the country is now under? (DO NOT READ)
SCALE: 1. (Correct = orange or "high" or "second highest") 2. (Incorrect/not sure)

  (Correct) (Incorrect/Not sure)
11 12 Feb 03 84% 16
9-10 Jul 02* 22% 78

* Wording: Earlier this year the federal government announced the development of a color-coded terror alert system called the "Homeland Security Advisory System." Do you happen to know what color . . . Correct = yellow or "elevated" or middle

5. After the terror alert level was increased last week, did you or members of your family go about day-to-day life as usual or did you make some changes in response to the alert?

1. Went about life as usual 90%
2. Made some changes 9
3. (Not sure) 1

6. 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?

  Yes No (Not sure)
11-12 Feb 03 24% 74 2
8-9 Sep 02 17% 83 -

7. What about in case of war with Iraq, have you or members of your family made any emergency plans or special preparations?

1. Yes 10%
2. No 89
3. (Not sure) 1

8. If the terror alert level is ever increased to the top level of "severe," do you think you will:

1. Change your plans to avoid potential terrorist targets and risks, or 43%
2. Go about your business pretty much as usual? 53
3. (Not sure) 4

9. Do you think your life is in danger due to terrorism?

  Yes No (Not sure)
11-12 Feb 03 34% 61 5
4-5 Jun 02 25% 68 7