Concern About Terrorism Unchanged Following bin Laden Tape

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Most believe he is planning an attack against the United States

PRINCETON, NJ -- Terror mastermind Osama bin Laden resurfaced last week with the release of an audio tape that purported to show him speaking about the war in Iraq. However, a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll suggests that Americans' level of concern about terrorism has not changed in recent months, even though most Americans believe bin Laden is alive and planning a terrorist attack against the United States. Americans are somewhat more optimistic about the United States' performance in the war on terrorism than they have been in several months and are slightly more confident in the Bush administration's ability to protect the United States from terrorism.

Expectations, Concern About Terrorism

The Jan. 20-22 poll finds that 70% of Americans believe bin Laden is "currently planning a significant terrorist attack against the United States." But only a minority of those who hold this view think he will succeed. All told, 30% of Americans think bin Laden will successfully attack the United States, 40% think he will be thwarted in his attempt, and 24% do not believe he is planning another terrorist attack at this time.

Apparently, the release of the tape did not raise public concern about terrorism. The new poll finds 43% of Americans saying they are very (14%) or somewhat (29%) worried about themselves or a family member becoming a victim of terrorism. When last asked in mid-December, 41% were worried.

Americans' concern about being personally affected by terrorism was high in the immediate wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when a majority of Americans expressed worry. That subsided rather quickly, and since late October 2001, the percentage worried has ranged from a low of 28% in January 2004 to a high of 48% in February 2003. The latter number was measured shortly before the U.S.-led war with Iraq began.

Americans are divided as to whether further acts of terrorism are likely in the next several weeks -- 49% say it is very or somewhat likely, and 49% say it is not likely. However, just 14% say attacks are very likely to occur. Shortly after the United States began military action in Afghanistan in October 2001, 4 in 10 Americans thought acts of terrorism were very likely. Since the beginning of 2002, however, the most who have expressed this view is 21%.

Assessment of the War Effort

Americans today are more positive about the United States' progress in the war on terrorism than they have been in more than a year. Currently, 41% of Americans say the United States and its allies are winning the war on terrorism, while 14% say the terrorists are winning. Forty-two percent believe that neither side has an advantage.

Not since January 2004 have more Americans thought the United States was winning the war on terror than do so currently. And in four 2005 measurements, at least 20% of Americans said the terrorists were winning the war. Nevertheless, the current assessment is considerably less optimistic than at other points since Sept. 11. For example, in January 2002 and April 2003 roughly two in three Americans said the United States was winning.

Most Republicans (74%) believe the United States is winning. Only 19% of Republicans say neither side is winning, and just 6% believe the terrorists are. In contrast, Democrats are more likely to say the terrorists are winning than to say the United States is winning (23% versus 18%). However, most Democrats (54%) believe neither side is prevailing. A majority of independents (54%) also believe neither side is winning, but this group is nearly three times as likely to believe the United States is winning (32%) rather than the terrorists (11%).

Government Response to Terrorism


The poll finds a slight increase in the percentage of Americans expressing a "great deal of confidence" in the Bush administration to protect U.S. citizens from terrorism when compared with the most recent measurements, taken in the summer of 2005. Currently, 30% have a great deal of confidence, compared with 23% in polls conducted in June and July.


Additionally, 52% approve of the job Bush is doing on terrorism. That number has changed very little since last spring, although it dipped below 50% in November, when Bush was receiving the lowest overall job approval ratings of his presidency.

While Bush's current approval rating on terrorism rates as one of his lowest on that issue for him, it is significantly higher than his overall 43% job approval rating. That has been the case for most of the last three years, demonstrating Bush's relative strength on the terrorism issue.

In fact, in the current poll, terrorism is the only issue for which approval of Bush's job performance exceeds his overall job rating. That pattern has also been evident in other polls during the past several years.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,006 adults, 18 years and older, conducted Jan. 20-22, 2006. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 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.

22. How worried are you that you or someone in your family will become a victim of terrorism -- very worried, somewhat worried, not too worried, or not worried at all?

Very worried

Somewhat worried

Not too worried

Not
worried
at all

KNOW
A VICTIM (vol.)

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

%

2006 Jan 20-22 ^

14

29

34

23

--

1

2005 Dec 16-18

11

30

37

22

--

*

2005 Jul 22-24

14

33

30

23

*

*

2005 Jun 16-19

8

30

36

26

*

*

2005 Jan 7-9

10

28

37

24

*

1

2004 Dec 17-19

13

28

34

25

*

*

2004 Oct 14-16

13

34

33

20

*

*

2004 Sep 3-5 ^

11

32

36

21

--

*

2004 Aug 9-11

8

26

36

30

--

*

2004 Feb 9-12

10

30

36

24

*

*

2004 Jan 2-5

5

23

42

30

*

*

2003 Dec 5-7

9

28

38

25

*

*

2003 Aug 25-26

11

30

33

26

*

--

2003 Jul 18-20 ^

6

24

38

32

*

*

2003 Apr 22-23 ^

8

26

39

26

*

1

2003 Mar 22-23

8

30

38

24

--

*

2003 Feb 17-19

8

28

33

31

*

--

2003 Feb 7-9 ^

13

35

34

18

*

*

2003 Jan 23-25

8

31

36

25

--

*

2002 Sep 2-4

8

30

37

25

*

*

2002 May 28-29

9

31

37

22

1

*

2002 Apr 22-24

8

27

39

25

1

*

2002 Mar 4-7

12

33

32

23

*

*

2002 Feb 4-6 ^

8

27

39

25

--

1

2001 Nov 26-27

8

27

34

30

1

*

2001 Nov 2-4

11

28

34

26

--

1

2001 Oct 19-21 †

13

30

33

23

*

1

2001 Oct 11-14 †

18

33

35

14

*

*

2001 Oct 5-6 †

24

35

27

14

*

*

2001 Sep 21-22 †

14

35

32

18

*

1

2001 Sep 14-15 †

18

33

35

13

*

1

2001 Sep 11 † ‡

23

35

24

16

1

1

2000 Apr 7-9 ^

4

20

41

34

--

1

1998 Aug 20 ‡ #

10

22

38

29

--

1

1996 Jul 20-21 ‡

13

26

34

27

--

*

1996 Apr 9-10 ##

13

22

33

32

--

*

1995 Apr 21-23 ##

14

28

33

24

--

1

(vol.) Volunteered Response

^ Asked of a half sample

† WORDING: How worried are you that you or someone in your family will become a victim a terrorist attack -- very worried, somewhat worried, not too worried, or not worried at all?

‡ Based on one night poll of national adults with a margin of error of ±4 percentage points.

# WORDING: How worried are you that someone in your family will become a victim of a terrorist attack similar to the bombing in Oklahoma City?

## WORDING: How worried are you that you or someone in your family will become a victim of a terrorist attack similar to the bombing in Oklahoma City?

* Less than 0.5%

23. 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

%

%

%

%

%

2006 Jan 20-22 ^

14

35

38

11

2

2005 Jul 22-24

12

45

32

10

1

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?

24. 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

%

%

%

%

2006 Jan 20-22

41

42

14

3

2005 Aug 28-30 ^

34

42

23

1

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

^ Asked of a half sample
* Less than 0.5%

25. How much confidence do you have in the Bush administration to protect its 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

%

%

%

%

%

2006 Jan 20-22

30

34

22

13

1

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%

Turning now to Osama bin Laden, leader of the al-Qaeda terrorist network,

26. Just your best guess, do you think Osama bin Laden himself is currently planning a significant terrorist attack against the United States, or not?

Yes,
is

No,
is not

No
opinion

%

%

%

2006 Jan 20-22

70

24

6

2005 Aug 5-7

76

20

4

27. Do you think Osama bin Laden will -- or will not -- succeed in launching this attack?

BASED ON 696 ADULTS WHO SAY OSAMA BIN LADEN IS CURRENTLY PLANNING A SIGNIFICANT TERRORIST ATTACK AGAINST THE UNITED STATES

Yes,
will

No,
will not

No
opinion

%

%

%

2006 Jan 20-22

42

50

7

2005 Aug 5-7

53

42

5


COMBINED RESPONSES (Q.26-27)

2006
Jan 20-22

2005
Aug 5-7

%

%

Osama bin Laden current planning attack

70

76

(Yes, will succeed)

(30)

(40)

(No, will not succeed)

(40)

(36)

Osama bin Laden is not planning attack

24

20

No opinion

6

4

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