Americans Anxious, But Holding Their Heads High

by Lydia Saad

Have increased confidence in government leaders, the economy

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- While personally upset, depressed, and in some cases distracted by the events of September 11 and all their ramifications, the majority of Americans exhibit little gloom and doom about the long-term state of the country, and even about the economy, according to recent polls.

Americans' post-attack inclination to rally around the flag extends beyond the record high approval ratings they are giving to George W. Bush (90% approve of his overall job performance according to Gallup's latest survey, conducted September 21-22). The percentage of Americans who are satisfied with the way things are going in the country now stands at 61%, compared to 43% just prior to the attack. Their assessment of the nation's economy -- which had been sinking all year – suddenly turned around in the days immediately following the attack. Positive ratings of current economic conditions, which fell to 32% in early September, rose to 46% in a Gallup survey conducted September 14-15.

Few Americans (21%) believe terrorism will ever be completely defeated and only 32% are highly confident the government will be able to prevent further acts of terrorism in the United States, but 60% are highly confident that the nation's economy will be prosperous in the long term, and 65% are highly confident that the American way of life will be preserved.

Only when asked about the effect on the economy in the short term do more Americans admit to feeling pessimistic rather than optimistic: 37% say they feel less confident about the economy in the months ahead; 16% feel more confident. But negativity about the outlook for the economy has been present all year, so this is not new. In a Gallup poll conducted just prior to September 11, only 19% thought economic conditions in the country were getting better; 70% thought they were worsening. That sentiment actually improved slightly in the week following the attack.

Fully half of Americans (52%) now think the country is in a recession, but this is unchanged from the number who felt this way just prior to the attacks. Furthermore, according to a Newsweek poll reported this past weekend, less than a quarter of Americans anticipate that a long recession is in store for the country as a result of the attack. Another 57% expect there will be a recession but think it will be brief.

In some ways, Americans are expressing less serious personal financial concern since the attack than might have been expected. There has been no increase of the percentage of working Americans who say it is likely they will be laid off -- 13% today, compared to 12% when last asked in April. This is in spite of the fact that close to half of all workers in the private sector (46%) believe their company has been or will be negatively affected by the attacks. When asked whether now is a good or bad time to spend money, 43% say it is a good time -- higher than the 35% who felt this way in April. Just 12% of Americans told CNN/Time pollsters last week that they have delayed or considered delaying making a major purchase such as a home, car or appliance.

The ultimate impact of the attacks on the level of consumer confidence across the country is still, of course, unclear – depending on what happens in terms of pending military action in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and on the possibility of additional terrorist actions within the U.S.

Americans Paying Lip Service to Stock Investments

Although the stock market plunged in its opening week after the attack, Gallup's September 14-15 poll (conducted prior to the September 17 reopening of the markets) found three out of four Americans saying that the attacks would make no difference in their likelihood to invest in the U.S. stock market. One out of nine Americans (11%) said they were less likely to invest in the market, but almost the same number (10%) said the attacks would make them more likely to do so. However, it appears that neither time nor the downturn in the markets has changed this sentiment, as a Time/CNN survey conducted this past weekend found just 10% of Americans – the same level as earlier – saying they had reduced their stock investments since the attack. Indeed, the Dow Jones average, after plummeting in the week after the attacks, last week had a significant upturn as investors took advantage of perceived buying opportunities.

Ready to Return to Normal?

While Americans are maintaining a stiff upper lip about the state of the country, they expressed fairly high levels of distress or concern about several aspects of their own lives, at least in the first week after the attack. According to a September 13-17 survey by the Pew Research Center, 71% of Americans felt depressed over the attack, 49% had difficulty concentrating on their normal activities and 33% had trouble sleeping. More than nine in ten said they felt sad when watching the news about the attack, which, with three-quarters following the news "very closely," was apparently quite frequently.

Perhaps because of this heightened concern, Americans seem to be reaching out more to their loved ones. Several polls have found large majorities of adults indicating they have shown more affection for their family members and have been in closer contact with relatives. The silver lining: 60% report that their personal relationships have been strengthened since the attack.

With mayors from New York City to Miami telling their citizens it is their patriotic duty to shop and get back to normal living, it may come as no surprise that 85% of Americans tell CBS pollsters that the United Statesshouldreturn to business as soon as possible. The same poll found 67% saying they think the United States isreadyto return to business. Just one-quarter think it is still too soon for this.

A Restrained Reaction to Future Terrorism

Thus far, Americans are not highly anxious about the risk of terrorism affecting their own lives. Gallup's most recent survey finds just 14% feeling very worried that they or a family member will be a victim of a terrorist attack, while another 35% are somewhat worried.

Perhaps as a result, few are taking drastic measures such as buying gas masks, but many seem to be taking moderate actions to reduce their exposure to possible terrorism, or to prepare for it. Reluctance to travel by plane seems to lead the list of behavioral responses by Americans.

  • 43% of Americans tell Gallup they are less willing to fly and 48% are less willing to travel overseas as a result of the events of September 11.
  • 35% are less willing to enter skyscrapers.
  • 30% are less willing to attend events with large crowds.
  • One third tell Time/CNN pollsters that they have been more careful to monitor people in their community who "might be acting suspicious or out of the ordinary."
  • Roughly 30% say they have already considered or might consider stocking up on extra food and water.
  • Relatively few Americans say they have purchased or might purchase a gun (22%), a generator (18%)or a gas mask (17%).

Survey Methods

These results are based on a variety of surveys of adults within the United States since the terrorist attacks on Sep. 11. The latest Gallup survey referenced included telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,005 adults, 18 years and older, conducted Sep. 21-22, 2001. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 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.

Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president?

 

 

 

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

 

%

%

%

       

2001 Sep 21-22

90

6

4

       

2001 Sep 14-15

86

10

4

2001 Sep 7-10

51

39

10

2001 Aug 24-26

55

36

9

2001 Aug 16-19

57

34

9

2001 Aug 10-12

57

35

8

2001 Aug 3-5

55

35

10

2001 Jul 19-22

56

33

11

2001 Jul 10-11

57

35

8

2001 Jun 28-Jul 1

52

34

14

2001 Jun 11-17

55

33

12

2001 Jun 8-10

55

35

10

2001 May 18-20

56

36

8

2001 May 10-14

56

31

13

2001 May 7-9

53

33

14

2001 Apr 20-22

62

29

9

2001 Apr 6-8

59

30

11

2001 Mar 26-28

53

29

18

2001 Mar 9-11

58

29

13

2001 Mar 5-7

63

22

15

2001 Feb 19-21

62

21

17

2001 Feb 9-11

57

25

18

2001 Feb 1-4

57

25

18



Thinking of your own financial situation just now, do you feel you are in a GOOD position to buy some of the things you would like to have, or is now a rather BAD time for you to spend money?

 

 

Good
position

Bad
position

BOTH GOOD/BAD
(vol.)

No
opinion

 

%

%

%

%

         

2001 Sep 21-22

43

53

2

2

         

2001 Apr 6-8

35

61

3

1

1991 Oct 17-21

30

67

--

3

1978 Mar 31-Apr 3

28

55

14

3

         

(vol.) Volunteered response



Do you think the economy is now in a recession, or not?

 

 

Yes

No

No opinion

 

%

%

%

       

2001 Sep 21-22

52

43

5

       

2001 Sep 7-10

51

43

6

2001 May 10-14

33

62

5

2001 Apr 6-8

42

52

6

2001 Mar 5-7 ^

31

64

5

2001 Feb 1-4 ^

44

49

7

1994 May 20-22

35

61

4

1994 Feb 26-28

34

62

4

1993 Dec 4-6

45

50

5

1992 Sep 11-15

79

19

2

1992 Jan 3-6

84

14

2

1991 Mar

81

16

4

 

^

Based on half sample



Thinking about the next twelve months, how likely do you think it is that you will lose your job or be laid off -- Is it very likely, fairly likely, not too likely, or not at all likely?

BASED ON -- 589 -- ADULTS EMPLOYED FULL OR PART-TIME; ±4 PCT. PTS.

 

 

Very
likely

Fairly
likely

Not too likely

Not at all likely

No
opinion

 

%

%

%

%

%

           

2001 Sep 21-22

7

6

25

62

*

           

2001 Apr 6-8

5

7

36

52

*

1998 Dec 4-6

5

7

27

60

1

1997 Jun 26-29

3

6

26

63

2

1996 Apr 9-10

5

9

34

51

1

1993 Dec 4-6

5

7

27

59

2

1991 Oct

6

8

26

59

1

1991 Jul

5

10

25

59

1

1991 Mar

5

7

22

65

1

1990 Oct

7

9

21

62

1

1990 Jul

6

6

24

62

2

1989 Feb

4

8

35

53

*

1983 Apr

8

8

26

55

4

1982 Nov

9

10

29

48

4

1982 Jun

8

7

27

54

4

1982 Jan

5

10

25

57

3

1980 Sep

6

9

24

60

2

1980 May

6

8

24

60

2

1979 Nov

3

8

18

66

4

1976 Oct

6

6

21

64

3

1975 Apr

4

8

22

63

3

1975 Jan

5

10

27

54

4

           

* Less than 0.5%

         


Just your best guess, would you say the financial prospects of the company or organization you work for -- [ROTATED: have already been hurt by the terrorist attacks, have not yet been hurt but will be, or will not be hurt by the terrorist attacks]?

BASED ON -- 391 -- ADULTS EMPLOYED AT PRIVATE COMPANY OR NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION; ±5 PCT. PTS.

 

 


Already
been hurt


Not yet hurt, but will be


Will not
be hurt

HAVE BEEN HELPED
(vol.)

 

No
opinion

           

2001 Sep 21-22

17%

29

52

1

1

           

(vol.) Volunteered response



How worried are you that you or someone in your family will become a victim of a terrorist attack -- 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

 

%

%

%

%

%

%

             

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

             

^

Based on one-night poll of 619 national adults with a margin of error of ±4 pct. pts.

Asked of a half sample.

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%

(vol.) Volunteered response

 


How confident are you that each of the following will happen -- extremely confident, very confident, moderately confident, not very confident, or not confident at all? How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

A. The United States will be able to prevent major acts of terrorism from occurring in the U.S. in the future

 

 


Extremely confident


Very confident


Moderately confident


Not very confident

Not confident
at all


No
opinion

             

2001 Sep 21-22

7%

25

44

18

5

1



B. Every global terrorist organization will be defeated

 

 


Extremely confident


Very confident


Moderately confident


Not very confident

Not confident
at all


No
opinion

             

2001 Sep 21-22

6%

15

38

28

12

1



C. The American way of life will be preserved

 

 


Extremely confident


Very confident


Moderately confident


Not very confident

Not confident
at all


No
opinion

             

2001 Sep 21-22

23%

42

28

4

2

1



D. The U.S. economy will be prosperous in the long-term

 

 


Extremely confident


Very confident


Moderately confident


Not very confident

Not confident
at all


No
opinion

             

2001 Sep 21-22

18%

42

31

7

1

1



SUMMARY OF CONFIDENCE

 

2001 Sep 21-22

Highly confident (extremely + very)

Not confident (not very + not at all)

 

%

%

The American way of life will be preserved

65

6

The U.S. economy will be prosperous in the long-term

60

8

The United States will be able to prevent major acts of terrorism from occurring in the U.S. in the future

32

23

Every global terrorist organization will be defeated

21

40



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