Amid agency finger pointing and congressional committee hearings, Americans are divided on where to place the blame for failure to prevent the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
In the latest FOX News/Opinion Dynamics poll, slightly more blame the FBI than the CIA (13 to 9 percent), and a generous 13 percent say no one is to blame for failure to prevent the attacks. Only a handful of Americans place the fault directly on President George Bush (6 percent); in fact, twice as many blame former President Clinton (12 percent).
Bush's job rating remains strong with 74 percent saying they approve of the job he's doing as president. On handling the war on terrorism, his ratings have slipped over the last few months with 73 percent approving Bush's handling of terrorism today, down from a high of 89 percent in January and from 78 percent a month ago.
Overall, the strength of confidence in the country's handling of terrorism has declined. Those feeling "absolutely confident" in the US's ability to handle the problem of terrorism dropped to 19 percent, down from 36 percent following the attacks in September.
Moreover, 12 percent say they have no confidence in the government’s efforts — up from only 4 percent who took that view last September. "It seems clear that the recent revelations about how various government agencies handled pre-9/11 intelligence information has made some Americans re-assess their level of confidence in our anti-terror efforts," said Ernest Paicopolos, a principal of Opinion Dynamics Corporation.
Not surprisingly, the issue of terrorism is frequently on the minds of most people. About one-third of those polled said they think about terrorism or terrorist attacks at least once a day (13 percent said "several times a day"). In addition, 25 percent said they believe their "life is in danger due to terrorism," and 40 percent said it is likely they would move if their city was a presumed terrorist target.
A solid majority (66 percent) approves of the expanded FBI surveillance rules that Attorney General John Ashcroft recently announced. The new rules give agents working on detecting or preventing terrorism more leeway in several surveillance areas. Americans seem comfortable with the FBI's spying duties. Over five times as many respondents (71 percent) said they were more worried about the FBI "not spying enough on terrorists" than they were about the agency spying on them personally (13 percent).
Seventy percent of the public said they think most of their fellow Americans are willing to do "whatever is necessary" to defeat terrorism. Slightly fewer, 64 percent, said they themselves would be willing to give up some personal freedom in order to reduce terrorism (down from 71 percent in October).
Americans think the biggest terrorist threat right now is chemical or biological weapons (29 percent), followed by suicide bombings (16 percent), infected water/food supplies (12 percent), tactical nuclear weapons (10 percent), and car bombs (10 percent). Separately, 16 percent expect a terrorist to detonate a nuclear device in the United States in less than a year and another 23 percent think it will happen in the next one to five years.
When asked which of two extreme possibilities might happen first, a large minority (45 percent) said they thought a human being would be cloned before a nuclear bomb would be exploded in wartime (28 percent).
Polling was conducted by telephone June 4-5, 2002 in the evenings. The sample is 900 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of ± 3 percentage points.
I'm going to read the names of some people. Please tell me whether you have a generally favorable or unfavorable opinion of each. If you've never heard of someone, please just say so.
1. George W. Bush
2. Do you approve or disapprove of the job George W. Bush is doing as president?
Do you approve or disapprove of the job President Bush is doing on the following issues?
SCALE: 1. Approve 2. Disapprove 3. (Don't know)
3. Managing foreign affairs
4. Managing the economy
5. Handling terrorism
* Wording: "responding to the terrorist attacks"
6. Do you approve or disapprove of the job John Ashcroft is doing as Attorney General?
7. How confident are you in the United State's ability to handle the problem of terrorism?
8. Do you favor or oppose expanding law enforcement powers to catch suspected terrorists, even if it requires sacrificing some personal civil liberties?
9. If your city was rumored to be a target of a terrorist attack, how likely is it that you would move at least temporarily?
10. What infrastructure in the United States do you think is most at risk of being a terrorist target?
11. Which terrorist activity do you think is the biggest threat right now?
12. Do you think your life is in danger due to terrorism?
13. How long do you think it will be before a terrorist detonates a nuclear device inside the United States?
14. How often would you say that you think about terrorism or terrorist attacks?
15. Would you be willing to give up some of your personal freedom in order to reduce the threat of terrorism?
16. Do you think most Americans are willing to do whatever is necessary to defeat terrorism?
17. Do the recent changes and reorganization at the FBI give you more confidence in the bureau or do you think it is beyond repair?
18. Last week Attorney General John Ashcroft announced new rules giving FBI agents working on detecting and preventing terrorism more leeway to attend mosques or other religious places, go to political rallies and monitor Internet sites, without first having evidence of wrongdoing. Do you approve or disapprove of these new surveillance rules?
19. Which do you worry about more: the FBI spying on you or the FBI not doing enough spying on potential terrorists?
20. Do you approve or disapprove of airline pilots being armed?
21. Do you approve or disapprove of flight attendants being armed with so-called "stun guns"?
22. Do you approve or disapprove of using racial profiling to screen Arab-male airline passengers?
Residents of the United States must pass a test to obtain a driver's license before being allowed to drive a motor vehicle. Do you think residents should also be required to pass a test before being allowed to:
SCALE: 1. Yes 2. No 3. (Not sure)
26. Who do you think deserves the most blame for the failure of the United States to prevent the September 11 terrorist attacks?
27. Which do you think will happen first — a nuclear bomb will be exploded in wartime or a human being will be cloned?