Poll: Most Americans Don't Know the (Color) Code

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Most of the public is unable to identify the current terror alert level based on the Homeland Security Advisory System announced earlier this year.

Fewer than one in four Americans (22 percent) in the latest FOX News/Opinion Dynamics national survey answered correctly when asked to name the country's current alert level.

Since the advisory program began in March, the country has been on "elevated" alert, represented by the color yellow.  In addition to "yellow," answers such as "elevated" and "the middle level" were also accepted as correct based on the Homeland Security chart.  Seventy-eight percent of respondents gave an incorrect answer or said they were unsure of the alert level.

Despite this unfamiliarity with the color code, a recent FOX News survey showed almost three-quarter (72 percent) said they consider the terror alerts to be useful. "It may be that Americans are so attuned to the general terrorist threat facing the country that most are paying little attention to specific warning levels.  The fact that they see value in the Homeland Security Advisory System, however, suggests they would be more attentive in the event of an actual new attack," said Ernest Paicopolos, a principal of Opinion Dynamics.

Prior to the recent July 4 holiday weekend, the alert level was not officially increased but there was a lot of talk about terrorists planning something around the holiday weekend.  When asked about the absence of a terrorist attack over the Fourth of July, Americans were divided on why no attack occurred.

More Americans say no terrorist attacks happened July 4 because none were planned (44 percent) than say successful government security measures prevented an attack (34 percent).  Two percent volunteered the response that there actually was a terrorist attack at the Los Angeles airport and 20 percent were not sure.

As the country continues to fight the war on terrorism, tracking down Al Qaeda members and other terrorists is the goal considered "very important" by the highest number of Americans — more important than capturing and/or killing Usama bin Laden.  Here's how other goals for the U.S. military to accomplish in Afghanistan rank:

Polling was conducted by telephone July 9-10, 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 Tom Ridge is doing as director of Homeland Security?

3. 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 or alert level the country is currently under? (DO NOT READ)

4. Do you think the absence of a terrorist attack over the July 4 holiday is more likely because the government security measures are working or because no major attacks were planned?

5. Do you think airport security should be moved so that everyone who enters the airport is screened or should it stay closer to where planes are boarded and only apply to passengers?

6. [IF "SCREEN EVERYONE" N=586] If you knew that screening everyone who enters the airport could add between one and two hours to a trip, would it make you much less likely to support this action, somewhat less likely, or wouldn’t it make any difference to you?

7. Recently the vice president of the transitional government of Afghanistan was assassinated. Do you support or oppose putting additional U.S. troops in Afghanistan that would be dedicated to peacekeeping activities and making sure the new government survives?

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)

8. Capturing or killing Usama bin Laden

9. Providing humanitarian aid

10. Participating in peacekeeping activities

11. Tracking down members of Al Qaeda and other terrorists