Despite the failure of U.S. intelligence agencies to "connect the dots" in the attempted bombing of an airliner on Christmas Day, most Americans are confident in the intelligence community's ability to uncover threats in the future.
Still, in the war on terrorism, Americans think terrorists are more committed to winning than the United States is, and a plurality thinks the country is less safe today than it was a year ago.
A Fox News poll released Thursday shows nearly three in four Americans — 74 percent — are very or somewhat confident U.S. intelligence gathering agencies will succeed in identifying threats down the road. Today's views are essentially unchanged from 2004, when 71 percent said they were confident in the agencies (3-4 Feb 2004).
The poll also asked which side is “more deeply committed” to winning the war on terrorism. By 49 percent to 33 percent, more Americans say they think radical Muslims and extremists are more committed to winning than the United States and its allies. In 2005, the same number said the United States was more committed (36 percent) as said radical Muslims (36 percent).
In addition, while 31 percent of Americans think the United States is safer today than it was a year ago, slightly more — 39 percent — think the country is less safe today, and 27 percent say it has stayed the same.
A 54-percent majority thinks the Obama administration is "as serious" about fighting terrorism as the Bush administration was, while 37 percent think the current administration is not as serious.
The national telephone poll was conducted for Fox News by Opinion Dynamics Corp. among 900 registered voters from January 12 to January 13. For the total sample, the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
By 51 percent to 33 percent, voters approve of the Obama administration's handling of the Christmas Day incident, although most Americans disagree with the decision to treat the suspected bomber as a criminal defendant. Three of four people — 75 percent — think the suspect should have been treated as an enemy combatant, while 18 percent agree with the decision to treat him as a criminal.
Airport Security Procedures
A 55 percent majority says air travel is safer today than before September 11 — that's twice as many as the 27 percent who think it is less safe. Some 15 percent think air travel is as safe today as it was before the attacks.
The failed Christmas Day bomb attempt sparked a debate about whether airports should use full-body scanning machines to screen passengers. There is widespread support (71 percent) for using the machines to screen all airline passengers, even though they show detailed images of the individual, and most people (81 percent) say they would "personally feel comfortable" going through a full-body scanner.
Another screening option is to profile passengers by looking at their race, country of origin and behavior. A 63 percent majority says they approve of using this technique and 31 percent disapprove.
People think the scanning machines (50 percent) would be more effective at preventing future terrorist attacks than profiling passengers based on appearance and behavior (24 percent).
And while 44 percent of Americans think the body images that are captured on the machines will eventually leak out and become public, slightly more — 48 percent — think the images won't leak.