Poll: Feeling Safe Is Not the Same as Winning

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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?

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

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

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

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)

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

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

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

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

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)

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

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?

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)

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

Participating in peacekeeping activities

Tracking down members of Al Qaeda and other terrorists

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)

* 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?

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

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.

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

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

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

*added "without a trial"

Imposing stricter immigration and border crossing policies.

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?

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

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