Americans’ Worry About Terrorism Nears 5-Year Low

by Lymari Morales

But most think security measures put in place after 9/11 should remain

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano this week said the issue of terrorism "is always with us" and that "we have to be ever vigilant." Americans, however, are less worried about terrorism than at any point since August 2004 -- with 36% saying they are very or somewhat worried that they or a family member will become a victim.


Americans' collective level of worry about terrorism measured in the USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted June 8-9, is the lowest recorded since August 2004 (34%) and down sharply from the all-time high of 59% recorded in October 2001, just after the Sept. 11 attacks. The latest poll finds 30% who say they are not too worried about being a victim of terrorism and 34% who say they are not at all worried.

In a separate Gallup Poll, conducted June 14-17, only 1% mentioned terrorism as the most important problem facing the United States, consistent with Americans' perceptions of this issue over the past year, and tied for the lowest percentage giving this answer since 9/11. Mentions have been in the single-digit range since November 2006, and are down from a peak of 46% in October 2001.

Currently, 73% of Americans say they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in the U.S. government to protect its citizens from future acts of terrorism -- unchanged from 2006, but down from 81% in 2004.


While most Americans are not personally worried that they or a family member will become a victim of terrorism, they do see a continued need for the post-Sept. 11 security measures aimed at preventing terrorist attacks. Most (83%) think those measures are still needed, while 14% think they could be dropped.


Bottom Line

Americans are for the most part not personally worried that they or a family member will become a victim of terrorism, and they have a fairly high level of confidence in the U.S. government to protect them. While most agree that security measures implemented after 9/11 are still necessary, calls for continued vigilance like the one articulated by Napolitano this week are likely a good tactic to keep Americans ever aware of the ongoing threat.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 995 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted June 8-9, 2009. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
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