Religion and Social Trends

The Impact of the Attacks on America

Americans believe country already at war, accept increased security measures

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ

Key Point Summary

  • Seventy-three percent of the public now considers the United States at war, and nine in 10 Americans think the war will be both long and difficult.
  • Most Americans believe things have forever changed in this country, but that the United States will recover and move on.
  • Many Americans believe that future terrorist attacks are likely to occur, although the percentage saying further attacks are very likely seems to be declining from earlier polls.
  • Americans are strongly supportive of increased security measures at airports and public buildings, and are willing to tolerate considerable inconvenience in order to support the measures.
  • Americans do not universally support increased restrictions on civil liberties, such as allowing authorities to monitor mail or telephone calls.
  • A substantial proportion of Americans has become less trusting of Arabs living in this country.

Details

The American Public Clearly Believes the United States is at War

Immediately following the attacks, 86% of Americans told Gallup they would describe the September 11 attacks as "an act of war against the United States." Seventy-three percent of Americans in a September 14-15 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll say that the United States is now at war, while 25% do not think so.

Americans expect a long and difficult war against terrorism, as President George W. Bush said would be the case in his September 20 address to Congress and the nation. The latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows that 92% say the war against terrorism will be long and 94% say it will be difficult. These percentages are much higher in comparison to American opinion following the attack on Pearl Harbor, at which time just 51% thought the war against the Japanese would be long and 65% thought it would be difficult.

Do you think the war against terrorism will be a long war, or a short one?
Do you think the war against terrorism will be a difficult one, or a comparatively easy one?
Sep. 21 –22, 2001 / Dec. 12-17, 1941

Most Believe That Things Will Be Forever Different in This Country, But Think the United States Will Recover and Move On

Will the September 11 attacks become a watershed event that will forever change the way Americans look at and deal with the world? Gallup finds Americans evenly divided in answer to the question, "As a result of [the] attacks, do you think Americans will permanently change the way they live, or not?" About half (49%) believe that Americans will make permanent changes, while 45% disagree. Other polls show that a majority of Americans say things are forever changed in this country, including 66% in a September 20 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, who say that the attacks represent a major change in terms of our sense of freedom and security.

Still, looking long-term, Americans are optimistic about the nation's chances for recovery. The vast majority, 79%, think that the attacks will change the country for the better by making it stronger and more united, rather than making it worse (14%) by reducing freedom and prosperity, according to a September 20-21 Newsweek poll. The September 13 CNN/Time poll finds that 87% of Americans think the United States will recover and move on from these events, while just 11% think the terrorist attacks will permanently make things worse in the United States.

The new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll finds 23% extremely confident and 42% very confident that the American way of life will be preserved. About six in 10 are very confident that the U.S. economy will be prosperous in the long-term, even though most polls show that Americans are generally pessimistic about current economic conditions. Americans are less confident that the United States will be able to prevent future major acts of terrorism in this country, with just 32% saying they are very confident of this.

Americans Think Future Terrorist Acts Are Likely in This Country

The latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows 66% of Americans think further terrorist attacks are at least somewhat likely over the next several weeks, including 22% who say these are very likely. Several polls conducted in the week following the attack showed that about four in 10 Americans believed future attacks were very likely, so the expectation may have lessened in the last several days. While many Americans believe future attacks are likely, a September 13-14 Los Angeles Times poll shows that Americans do not expect them to be common -- only 8% think terrorist attacks in the United States will be very common, while most (53%) think they will not be very common.

Americans Are Willing to Surrender Some of Their Civil Liberties in Order to Help Prevent Terrorism

Perhaps as a result of Americans' expectation that future attacks are likely, a majority in several polls say they are willing to tolerate some inconvenience or even surrender some of their civil liberties. In a September 14-15 poll, CNN/USA Today/Gallup finds 86% of the public in support of new security procedures at airports that would require passengers to check in two to three hours prior to their flights. Eighty-six percent also support the use of metal detectors in office buildings and public places, and 77% favor requiring all people visiting such places to show identification before they enter. A slight majority even favors banning all carry-on luggage on airplanes, including purses, computers and briefcases, but 47% oppose this.

However, Americans are not willing to accept all limits on their personal liberties to help prevent terrorism. Only 33% favor making it easier for legal authorities to read mail or e-mail, or tap phones without a person's knowledge, and just 29% support allowing police to stop people at random on the street to search their possessions. Additionally, the September 14-17 Pew Research Center poll shows just 40% favor, and 55% oppose, allowing the government to monitor people's credit card purchases.

Please tell me if you would favor or oppose each of the following as a means of preventing terrorist attacks in the United States.

 

2001 Sep 14-15
(sorted by "support")


Support


Oppose

%

%

Requiring every person going into an office building or public place to go through a metal detector

86

13

Instituting new security procedures that would require passengers to check in two to three hours before their flight is scheduled to depart

86

14

Requiring every person going into an office building or public place to show ID

77

22

Requiring Arabs, including those who are U.S. citizens, to undergo special, more intensive security checks before boarding airplanes in the United States

58

41

Banning airline passengers from carrying on-board any luggage including purses, computers, and briefcases

51

47

Requiring Arabs, including those who are U.S. citizens, to carry a special ID

49

49

Making it easier for legal authorities to read mail, e-mail, or tap phones without the person's knowledge

33

65

Allowing police to stop people on the street at random to search their possessions

29

69



The Attacks Are Likely to Have an Effect on People of Arab Descent Living in This Country

In the September 14-15 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, 35% say they now have less trust in Arabs living in this country. Forty-three percent of Americans, in a September 13 ABC News/Washington Post poll, said they think the attacks will make them more suspicious of people whom they think are of Arab descent. According to CNN/Time, the majority of Americans say they feel no differently toward Arab-Americans as a result of the attacks, but 27% admit to feeling less favorably. About one in three say they have heard friends, neighbors, or coworkers make negative comments about Arabs living in this country since the attacks, according to CNN/USA Today/Gallup. The September 13-14 CBS News/New York Times poll reveals that nearly half of Americans, 46%, believe that it is very likely Arab-Americans, Muslims, and Middle Eastern immigrants will be singled out unfairly in this country.

Nearly six in 10 Americans favor requiring people of Arab descent to undergo special, more intensive security checks when flying on American planes. The public is evenly divided about whether Arabs living in this country -- including those who are U.S. citizens -- should be required to carry special identification with them. Nearly seven in 10 favor allowing police to "stop and search anyone who fits the general description of suspected terrorists," according to a September 19-20 Fox/Opinion Dynamics poll

Despite this, only about one in three Americans favors more severe measures such as putting Arabs living in this country under special surveillance, or allowing the U.S. government to take legal immigrants from unfriendly countries to internment camps.

About half of Americans (51%) say they feel less favorably toward Afghanistan, 41% feel less favorably toward the Palestinians, and 31% feel less favorably toward Muslims living abroad. While it's possible that sympathy for Israel could increase as a result of this tragedy, for now only 10% say they feel more favorably about Israel as a result of the attacks and 21% feel less favorably.

Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/4894/Impact-Attacks-America.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030