Personal Impact on Americans' Lives

by Lydia Saad

Three in four Americans watched Bush's address to Congress; slight uptick in church attendance

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

Key Point Summary

  • Americans are riveted to information about the attacks of September 11, with three in four Americans following the news very closely. About the same percentage watched President Bush's speech to Congress live on TV on September 20
  • The attack has taken an enormous emotional toll on Americans, as evident in the large numbers of Americans -- two-thirds or more -- who have told pollsters that they have cried, prayed, felt depressed by the attacks, or showed more affection to loved ones as a result.
  • The attack had the immediate effect of raising Americans' fear of terrorism striking their own lives. That heightened concern continues to be evident up through Gallup's latest September 21-22 survey, although it has diminished slightly in the days following the attacks.
  • Although fear of terrorism is heightened, particularly compared to a year ago, it is still restrained. Less than one-third of Americans say that they are highly concerned about terrorism or that they feel much less safe in their communities than they did before September 11.
  • Women express almost twice as much fear of terrorism as do men, and those living in the Eastern portion of the United States express more fear than those living in any other region.
  • So far, few Americans report taking drastic measures to change their lives or protect themselves from possible future attacks, but roughly a third indicate they will change one or more aspects of their personal lives to reduce their chances of becoming a victim of terrorism.
  • Americans' confidence in air travel has clearly been shaken by the events of September 11. Polling since the attacks consistently finds that a large majority feel worried about traveling by commercial airplane, and close to half of Americans respond that they are less likely to fly as a result of those events.
  • Polls suggest that up to 20% of Americans knew someone who was missing, hurt or killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, or the plane crash outside of Pittsburgh.

Since the morning of Tuesday, September 11, Americans have been consumed in many ways by the events of that day. Ongoing polling by CNN/USA Today/Gallup reveals how Americans have been coping ever since, and how the attacks are likely to affect their lives in the future.

If Americans' intense reaction to this event weren't already clear enough, Gallup polling reveals that public attention to the news concerning the terrorist attacks far exceeds attention to any other major news event over the past decade or more. Seventy-seven percent of Americans recently told Gallup that they were following the news about the attacks "very closely." A similar number, 74%, reported in Gallup's latest survey, conducted September 21-22, that they watched President Bush's address to Congress last Thursday night; an additional 14% saw parts of the speech rebroadcast later on the news.

Prior to now, the highest level of attention to a news event recorded by Gallup was the 55% who followed news of the death of Princess Diana in 1997 very closely. A similar number, 53%, was highly attentive to news about the start of the United States ground war in Iraq in February 1991.

A survey by the Pew Research Center conducted September 13-17 finds this same high level of public attention to news about the attacks. Pew found 74% of Americans saying they have been following news about the terrorist attacks very closely and another 22% following it somewhat closely. According to Pew, 81% of Americans are also "keeping the TV or radio tuned to the news," and 46% are "reading newspapers more closely."

So far, few Americans report taking drastic measures to change their lives or protect themselves from possible future attacks.But fear of terrorism is certainly heightened, more so than after the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City. Substantial concern about flying is also being expressed, with close to half the public saying it will avoid air travel.

The attacks had the immediate effect of raising Americans' fear of terrorism striking their own lives. That heightened concern continues to be evident in Gallup's latest survey, although it has diminished slightly in the days following the attacks.On the evening of September 11, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll found 23% of Americans "very worried" that they or someone in their family would become a victim of a terrorist attack, while 35% were "somewhat worried" -- for a total of 58% feeling fairly worried. Another 24% said they were "not too worried," and 16% were not worried at all. In a subsequent Gallup survey, completed September 14-15, the total percent worried dropped to 51%. As of this weekend (September 21-22), it had dropped further still to 49%. This includes 14% who are very worried and 35% who are somewhat worried.

When Gallup last asked this question in April 2000, only 24% of Americans were worried about being victimized by terrorism, including only 4% who were very worried. And, for context, in the aftermath of the then-worst terrorist act on U.S. soil -- the April 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City -- 42% were worried, including just 14% who were very worried.

More generally, the Los Angeles Times finds the majority of Americans admitting that their "personal sense of safety and security" has been shaken by the attacks: 31% say it has shaken their sense of security "a great deal" while 32% say it has shaken them "a good amount." Another 26% say it has not shaken them too much while just 10% say it has not shaken them at all.

Women express almost twice as much fear of terrorism as do men, and those living in the Eastern portion of the United States express more fear than those living in any other region.In Gallup's September 21-22 survey, 62% of women said they were either very or somewhat worried about future terrorism affecting them or their family, compared to only 35% of men. Within these numbers, 20% of women, but just 7% of men, feel "very worried." Regionally, 59% of adults living in the East feel worried (including 21% who are very worried). This compares with 46% in the rest of the country, including 12% who are very worried.

Two surveys of parents suggest that children are expressing fear at about the same levels as adults.A September 13 ABC/Washington Post survey found one-third of parents with children living at home saying that their child or children have expressed concern about their own safety as a result of the terrorist attacks. (Additionally, 15% of parents said their children have cried, and 4% said they have had nightmares.) The Pew Research Center asked parents of children between the ages 5 and 12 about their children's reaction, and found 46% saying that their child has expressed fears about terrorism since last Tuesday's attack.

According to a CNN/Time survey, one-third of Americans, 34%, say they will change one or more aspects of their personal lives in order to reduce their chances of becoming a victim of terrorism,higher than the 24% who responded this way shortly after the Oklahoma City bombing. An almost identical number, 35%, tell NBC News/Wall Street Journal pollsters that they or their family will change the way they live as a result.

Americans' confidence in air travel has clearly been shaken by the events of September 11. Polling since the attacks consistently finds just under half of Americans responding that they are less likely to fly as a result of those events.In Gallup's September 14-15 survey, 43% of Americans said they are less willing to fly, similar to the 42% who told CNN/Time pollsters that they will avoid flying on airplanes. In a related question, Gallup also finds close to half the public, 48%, less willing to travel overseas -- perhaps combining fear of air travel with fears about safety abroad.

To put all this in context,only 30% of Americans say they are less willing to attend events with large crowds of people and 35% are less willing to enter skyscrapers.Similarly, from the CNN/Time list of likely behaviors, it does not appear that Americans believe crowded places are per se dangerous, as only 14% indicate they are likely to avoid such areas as a result of the attacks. Nor are people anticipating any major disruption in transportation or distribution systems in the United States, as only 14% say they are likely to stock up on gasoline.

When Americans are asked more generally whether they are "personally worried about traveling by commercial airplane because of the risk of terrorism," the ABC News/Washington Post poll finds 59% feeling worried.

Early polling after the September 11 attack found a large number of Americans responding through expressions of sympathy, faith and patriotism.A Gallup survey found 82% of Americans saying they have flown or will fly the American flag, 74% praying more than usual, 70% crying and 60% attending a memorial service. About three-quarters (77%) also say they have shown or will show more affection than normal for their loved ones.

More recently, in a September 21-22 survey,Gallup finds a slight increase in religiosity among Americans, both in terms of the percentage who say religion is important in their lives, and the number saying they attended church or synagogue in the past week.Today 64% say religion is "very important" in their lives. For the last two years this figure has averaged 58%, and ranged from 55% to 61%. In the same recent survey, 47% of Americans told Gallup they attended church or synagogue in the past seven days. This too is slightly higher than recorded in recent years, averaging 43% since 1999.

Several surveys conducted since September 11 have attempted to document the personal emotional response of Americans to the attacks. As noted,the Gallup poll found that 70% of Americans say they have cried as a result of the tragedy, 74% have prayed, and 77% have shown or will show more affection for a loved one than they normally do.

When Americans were asked in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll on September 12 to identify their primary emotion, anger topped the list, felt by 37%, compared to 24% who chose sadness and 21% who chose disbelief. Americans are far less likely to cite more self-centered reactions, as only 11% say "vulnerability" is their number one emotion, and just 6% cite "fear."

Similarly, the Los Angeles Times poll conducted September 14-15 finds anger and frustration at the top of the list of Americans' emotions, with 26% saying these words best describe how they are feeling. Slightly fewer, 21%, mention sorrow or sadness. Eleven percent say they are "devastated" or "horrified" while 9% are "shocked" or "stunned."

The Pew Research Center found 71% of Americans saying that that they have felt "depressed" by the terrorist attacks -- much higher than the 50% who felt depressed about the Gulf War in January 1991. The same recent Pew survey found 49% of Americans reporting difficulty concentrating on their job or normal activities and 33% having trouble sleeping.

Get Articles in Related Topics:


Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/4900/Personal-Impact-Americans-Lives.aspx
Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030