Public: Likelihood of Terrorist Attack in United States Now Higher

by David W. Moore

Sharp jump in number of Americans who say Iraq has made U.S. less safe from terrorism

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- A new CNN/USA Today/Gallup survey this past weekend shows that the July 7 terrorist attacks in London have raised the specter of more terrorism in the United States, with a majority of Americans now expecting an imminent attack.

There is also a sharp increase in the percentage who say the war in Iraq has made the country less safe from terrorism, and that terrorism is the most important problem facing the country.

Still, there is virtually no change in public opinion about who is winning the war on terrorism or the Bush administration's ability to protect U.S. citizens from terrorism.

Bush's approval is at 49%, up from 46% at the end of June.

The poll, conducted July 7-10, finds that a majority of Americans, 55%, now believe that terrorists will strike in this country within the next several weeks, up from only 35% who held that view last month.

In October 2001, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, more than 8 in 10 Americans expected further strikes, but over time that expectation declined. It rose again as the United States prepared to invade Iraq in early 2003, reaching 73% just after the launch of the war. Again, expectations of more terrorist acts declined, but fluctuated with events in Iraq.

At the beginning of this year, as Iraq prepared for and eventually held elections, the number of Americans expecting more terrorism in the United States dropped. Last month was the lowest level measured by Gallup since September 2001. The current level is the highest since August 2003, when 54% of Americans said new terrorist strikes were likely.

Another consequence of the attacks in London is that more Americans now believe that the war in Iraq has made the United States less safe from terrorism. Less than two weeks ago, a Gallup survey showed only 39% saying "less safe," but that is up to 54% in the latest poll. The percentage who say the Iraq war has made the United States safer declined by four points, from 44% at the end of June to 40% now. Most of the increase in the "less safe" assessment apparently comes from people who said last month that the war had no effect on U.S. safety.

Other evidence for the heightened salience of terrorism is that 17% of Americans now say it is the most important problem facing the country today. Last month, just 8% volunteered terrorism as the most important problem.

While the attacks in London made Americans more likely to think another strike is imminent in the United States, opinion is little changed on the public's evaluation of the war or of the Bush administration's ability to protect the country.

Currently, 34% of Americans believe the United States and its allies are winning the war against terrorism, virtually unchanged from the 36% who expressed that view last month. Still, the current figure represents a 6-point decline from a year ago, and a 17-point decline from January 2004, when 51% of Americans thought the United States and its allies were winning.

The public's assessment of a U.S. victory was highest when the United States successfully ousted the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. In January 2002, 66% of Americans said the United States was winning. That optimism declined over the next year, though it surged again when the United States invaded Iraq, reaching 65%. The optimism began declining shortly after Bush announced the end of major fighting in Iraq, and reaching a low of 34% in the latest poll. It averaged 35% between June and December 2002.

Despite the relatively negative assessment of how the war on terrorism is going, there has been no recent change in the mostly positive rating of the Bush administration's ability to protect U.S. citizens from terrorism. Sixty-one percent of Americans say they have either a "great deal" or a "moderate amount" of confidence in the Bush administration on this matter, identical to last month's measure.

Current views are somewhat less positive than they were in February, when 73% expressed high confidence. After Bush announced the end of major fighting in Iraq in May 2003, confidence was even higher, at 79%.

Since the end of March, Bush's approval rating, as measured by Gallup, has fluctuated between 45% and 50%, averaging just over 47%. The three-point increase in Bush's job approval rating from last month is within the poll's margin of error.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,006 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted July 7-10, 2005. 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. For results based on the 489 national adults in the Form A half-sample and 517 national adults in the Form B half-sample, the maximum margins of sampling error are ±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.

10. How likely is it that there will be further acts of terrorism in the United States over the next several weeks -- very likely, somewhat likely, not too likely, or not at all likely?

Very
likely

Somewhat
likely

Not too
likely

Not at all
likely

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2005 Jul 7-10

12

43

35

9

1

2005 Jun 16-19

4

31

45

18

2

2005 Jan 7-9 ^

8

31

44

15

2

2004 Dec 17-19 ^

10

38

39

12

1

2004 Jul 19-21 ^

12

39

34

11

4

2004 Jan 9-11 ^

7

39

36

16

2

2003 Aug 25-26 ^

10

44

35

10

1

2003 Jul 18-20 ^

7

33

41

16

3

2003 May 19-21

12

45

32

8

3

2003 Mar 22-23

21

52

20

6

1

2003 Feb 7-9 ^

16

50

23

9

2

2002 Sep 13-16 ^

12

44

31

10

3

2002 Sep 2-4

12

48

28

9

3

2002 Jul 5-8 ^

15

41

30

12

2

2002 May 20-22 ^

21

44

25

7

3

2002 Mar 8-9 ^

9

43

32

13

3

2001 Dec 14-16 ^

17

45

27

8

3

2001 Nov 2-4 ^

24

50

16

6

4

2001 Oct 19-21 ^

40

45

10

3

2

2001 Oct 7 † ‡

41

42

9

4

4

2001 Sep 21-22 ‡

22

44

24

8

2

^ Asked of a half sample

† Polls conducted entirely in one day, such as this one, are subject to additional error or bias not found in polls conducted over several days.

‡ WORDING: How likely is it that there will be further terrorist attacks in the United States over the next several weeks -- very likely, somewhat likely, not too likely, or not at all likely?

11. Who do you think is currently winning the war against terrorism -- [ROTATED: the U.S. and its allies, neither side, or the terrorists]?

U.S. and
its allies

Neither
side

The
terrorists

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

2005 Jul 7-10

34

44

21

1

2005 Jun 24-26

36

41

20

3

2005 Jan 7-9

37

42

20

1

2004 Oct 9-10 ^

38

41

19

2

2004 Jul 19-21 ^

40

41

16

3

2004 Jan 12-15 ^

51

35

14

*

2003 Oct 10-12

42

42

13

3

2003 Jul 18-20

48

34

15

3

2003 May 19-21

54

32

11

3

2003 Apr 22-23

65

28

5

2

2003 Mar 3-5 ^

37

43

17

3

2003 Jan 31-Feb 2 ^

35

44

16

5

2002 Dec 5-8 ^

33

46

19

2

2002 Oct 14-17 ^

32

44

21

3

2002 Aug 5-8 ^

37

46

14

3

2002 Jul 5-8

39

43

16

2

2002 Jun 21-23

33

49

14

4

2002 May 28-29

41

35

15

9

2002 Apr 22-24

47

39

10

4

2002 Mar 22-24

51

35

12

2

2002 Mar 4-7

53

34

10

3

2002 Jan 7-9 ^

66

25

7

2

2001 Dec 6-9

64

28

5

3

2001 Nov 8-11 ^

53

33

11

3

2001 Oct 11-14

42

44

11

3

* Less than 0.5%

^ Asked of a half sample

12. How much confidence do you have in the Bush administration to protect U.S. citizens from future acts of terrorism -- a great deal, a moderate amount, not much, or none at all?

Great
deal

Moderate
amount

Not
much

None
at all

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2005 Jul 7-10

23

38

24

14

1

2005 Jun 16-19

23

38

21

17

1

2005 Feb 4-6

38

35

16

10

1

2004 Jul 30-Aug 1 ^

31

33

21

15

*

2004 Jul 19-21 ^

27

40

18

15

*

2003 May 19-21 ^

35

44

15

5

1

* Less than 0.5%

^ Asked of a half sample

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