Terrorism Fears Not Partisan; War’s Progress Is

by Darren K. Carlson, Government and Politics Editor

Despite the orange (or "high") terror alert levels issued earlier this month in New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., the latest Gallup update on terrorism finds just a third of Americans expressing concern that they will become victims of a terrorist act. The majority of Americans continue to be satisfied with the way things are going for the United States in the war on terrorism.

Women Worry

About one in three (34%) Americans are "very" or "somewhat" worried that they or family members will become victims of terrorism, while a majority (66%) are "not too worried" or "not worried at all." In the last year, the percentage of Americans who are worried has generally hovered around the 40% mark, with the exception of the low 28% reading in January this year. Concern about terrorism has declined since the Sept. 11 terror attacks -- immediately following the attacks, more than half of Americans expressed concern. 

Women are slightly more likely than men to worry about terrorism, 38% to 29%, and have consistently been more likely to do so in the time Gallup has tracked this question.

Fear of terrorism isn't partisan. Republicans, Democrats, and political independents are about equally likely to say they are very or somewhat worried about terrorism.

What About the War on Terror?

A majority of Americans (56%) are satisfied with the way things are going for the United States in the war on terrorism, but satisfaction levels are down from where they were in 2002 and 2003.

Satisfaction with the United States' progress in the war on terrorism varies dramatically along political lines. The lion's share of Republicans (84%) say they are satisfied with the way things are going for the United States in the war on terror, but the percentage drops to roughly half (49%) of independents and just a third (32%) of Democrats.

Further illustrating the political gulf on this topic, 85% of those who approve of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president are satisfied with the way things are going for the United States in the war on terrorism. Just 24% of those who disapprove of Bush are satisfied.

Bottom Line

Public sentiment on the progress of the war on terrorism is currently influenced largely by one's political views, and the issue could influence voters in this fall's presidential election. Although satisfaction with the way things are going in the war on terror has dropped since last year, Gallup polling continues to show that most Americans approve of the way Bush is handling terrorism, and that he enjoys a significant perceptual advantage over Democratic candidate John Kerry on the issue. The August 2004 poll indicates that this issue still favors the Bush campaign. More than half of Americans (57%) approve of the way Bush is handling terrorism, while 40% disapprove. A July 30-Aug.1 poll also showed that more Americans select Bush over Kerry as the person who is best able to handle the terrorism issue, 54% to 41%.

*These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 518 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Aug. 9-11, 2004. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±5 percentage points. 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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