NEW YORK – According to a FOX News poll, Americans think Al Qaeda is weaker today than it was a year ago, and more than half think the terrorist network's leader Usama bin Laden will be caught. A clear majority of the public approves of the job the government is doing protecting the country from terrorism, although most Americans believe it is likely there will be another terrorist attack in the near future.
The new poll finds that almost half of Americans (46 percent) think Al Qaeda is weaker today than it was a year ago, and just over half (52 percent) think the group is weaker than it was immediately after the September 11 attacks. About a third think Al Qaeda is stronger today than in the past.
Like almost all issues today, views on Al Qaeda show strong partisan divisions. Democrats are about twice as likely as Republicans to think the terrorist group is stronger today than it was a year ago or after the September 11 attacks.
By a 56 percent to 31 percent margin, the public thinks bin Laden ultimately will be captured or killed.
Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News on January 24-25.
The portion of the public that thinks a major terrorist attack is likely in the near future inched up a notch from the previous survey. Today, eight in 10 Americans think an attack is likely, including 38 percent that say very likely. Six months ago, 75 percent thought a major attack was likely, with 33 percent saying very likely.
The increase in expectation of an attack could be related to the new audiotape bin Laden released earlier this month that included threats to strike again inside the United States. A sizable majority — 67 percent — believes the threats are true, while about one in five Americans dismiss the tape (22 percent).
Overall, many more Americans approve (58 percent) than disapprove (34 percent) of the job the government is doing to protect the country from terrorism.
Among groups, Southerners (63 percent) are more likely to approve than those living in the Northeast (50 percent), and Republicans (80 percent) are much more likely to approve than independents (52 percent) and Democrats (44 percent). There is no gender gap, as 58 percent of both men and women approve.
President George W. Bush receives a higher issue-related approval rating on his handling of terrorism than on his handling of the economy or Iraq. The president's current approval rating on the issue of terrorism — 51 percent — is essentially the same as it has been since mid-2004.
"Regardless of how they feel about other issues, the public has consistently supported the president's efforts to prevent terrorism," comments Opinion Dynamics Vice President Lawrence Shiman.
Perhaps as a result of the bin Laden audiotape, the topic of terrorism is of greater interest today than it was a year ago. When asked to name the issue they are most interested in hearing the president talk about in the upcoming State of the Union address, 11 percent name terrorism, up from only 4 percent a year ago. The only topics of greater interest are Iraq (26 percent) and the economy (20 percent). No other issue receives double-digit support.