The country's commitment to the war on terror is as strong today as it was immediately following the terrorist attacks. Furthermore, Americans think the war is working and a majority of the public says they are as safe or safer today than before 9/11.
Six months after the worst terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, Americans continue to support military action as ardently today as they did in September. According to the latest FOX News/Opinion Dynamics poll, today 91 percent support the military action compared to 89 percent in September. Even when reminded of recent battle casualties and the possibility of increasing losses, 78 percent still back the action. The strength of support drops if significant numbers of civilian lives were to be lost in the countries being attacked or if the war extended to five years, yet in these scenarios a majority still supports the war.
Just as the public's support of the war has not declined, the sense of magnitude of the attacks has not faded. The numbers of Americans saying September 11 forever changed the world (86 percent), forever changed the United States (89 percent), and forever changed their own life (62 percent) are essentially the same as six months ago.
The country may have changed, but 60 percent report feeling either as safe or safer today than they did before the attacks. This sense of security could come from an increasing confidence in the government's response; currently 63 percent think that the government is doing enough to prevent future terrorist activity, up from 51 percent in October. In addition, the public clearly approves of the job President Bush is doing handling the issue of terrorism (84 percent approve, 9 percent disapprove).
"Each success in the war on terrorism reinforces the sense people have the government and the President are in charge and doing a good job," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman. "The reinforced confidence then provides credibility for further action. It is a sort of virtuous circle not likely to be broken unless there is major setback or mistake."
The "shadow government" or system of selected officials living and working underground in case something happens to Washington, DC gets a mixed response with some considering it "disturbing" (36 percent), but more calling it "reassuring" (46 percent).
Similarly, the public is divided on reports of U.S. troops being sent beyond Afghanistan to the Philippines, the former Soviet Republic of Georgia and the country of Yemen. Troops being sent to these locations gives confidence in the country's ability to win the war to almost half of Americans (47 percent); however, about one-third are concerned about the military's resources being stretched too thin (31 percent).
The poll shows large minorities of Americans are willing to take additional steps to prevent future terrorist attacks. Developing tactical nuclear weapons to be used in the war on terror is supported by 42 percent (48 percent oppose), and using physical torture to obtain information from prisoners that could prevent terrorist activity is supported by 41 percent (47 percent oppose).
Finally, it's difficult for Americans to decide between bad guys Usama bin Laden and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Bin Laden and Hussein are seen as equally dangerous by 35 percent of Americans, about one-third think Hussein poses a greater danger to the United States and 19 percent think bin Laden is a more dangerous. Four percent responded that neither poses a danger to the country.
Polling was conducted by telephone March 12-13, 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. Do you approve or disapprove of the job President Bush is doing handling the issue of terrorism?
* wording: "responding to the terrorist attacks"
4. Do you support or oppose the U.S. military action being taken in response to the terrorist attacks? (*asked before 17-18 Oct 01 as "would you favor/oppose")
5. (If support or not sure) In recent weeks there have been increased numbers of American battle casualties. Will you support or oppose the military action if this trend continues and increasing numbers of American soldiers' lives are being lost?
* wording: "Would you support or oppose the military action even if it means thousands of American soldiers' lives would be lost?"
6. (If support or not sure) Would you support or oppose the military action even if it cost the lives of thousands of civilians in the countries we attack?
7. (If support or not sure) Would you support or oppose the military action even if it means a war lasting up to five years?
8. Recently there has been discussion about a so-called "shadow government" which consists of about 100 government officials who live and work underground who would takeover in the event of a disabling attack on Washington, D.C. Do you think this shadow government is more:
9. In addition to the military troops in Afghanistan, U.S. troops were recently sent to the Philippines, the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, and the country of Yemen. Does this military action make you feel more confident about winning the war on terrorism, or does it make you concerned that the war is spreading our military resources too thin?
10. Do you think the federal government is doing enough to prevent terrorist activity in the U.S.?
11. Do you support or oppose allowing the government to use any means necessary, including physical torture, to obtain information from prisoners that would protect the United States from future terrorist attacks?
12. (IF OPPOSE ON QUESTION 11, n=421) What if innocent lives could be saved, then would you support or oppose allowing the government to use physical torture to obtain information that would protect the U.S. from a terrorist attack?
13. Do you support or oppose the government developing tactical nuclear weapons to be used in the war on terror?
14-16. Do you agree or disagree with the following statements?
SCALE: 1. Agree 2. Disagree 3. (Not sure)
"September 11 has changed the world forever."
"September 11 has changed the United States forever."
"September 11 has changed my life forever."
17. Do you feel as safe today as you did before the September 11 terrorist attacks, less safe today, or do you actually feel safer today than before September 11?
18-19. In the past week have you:
Made a special attempt to display the flag?
*wording: "since September 11"
Made a special effort to be nice to people?
*wording: "since the Sep 11 terrorist attack"
20. Right after September 11, many people noted increased feeling of patriotism and neighborliness. Since then do you think those feelings have faded:
21. Do you think September 11 should be made a permanent national day of remembrance?
22. Who do you think poses a greater danger to the United States today:
23. Some Democrats on Capitol Hill have been complaining that President Bush is not giving them enough information about future plans for the war on terrorism. Do you think President Bush should share more information with Congressional Democrats about his future plans for the war on terrorism, or do you think he should keep his plans confidential?
24. If President Bush were to give more information to Democrats on Capitol Hill, do you think it's more likely that the info would stay confidential or be leaked to the press?
25. Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are holding up a vote on President Bush's nomination of Judge Charles Pickering to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Republicans say the nomination is being held up for political reasons, while Democrats say it is about Pickering's judicial record. Do you think the debate over Pickering's nomination is based more on politics or based more on principle?
26. As you may know, Andrea Yates is on trial for killing her five children. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, but Yates' attorneys say she is innocent by reason of insanity. Do you think Yates knew that what she was doing was wrong when she drowned her children?
27. Recently, Monica Lewinsky has been interviewed on television and also had a cable television special. Do you think former President Clinton watched any of Monica's recent television appearances or not?
28. What about Hillary Clinton — do you think she watched any of Monica's recent television appearances?
29. What about Linda Tripp — do you think she watched any of Monica's recent television appearances?