Nine in 10 Americans Are Going About Business as Usual

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Fear of becoming terrorist attack victim at lowest level since Sept. 11

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Despite lingering fears about terrorism, the vast majority of Americans say they are currently going about their business as usual. The latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted Oct. 19-21, finds 89% saying they are going about their business as usual while 11% say they are not. When asked to describe their personal mood, little change is evidenced when compared to a January poll, with 78% reporting they are in a good mood now compared to 83% in January. Even so, most Americans admit that it is all right to be afraid. Seventy-two percent think there is nothing wrong with showing fear, while just 26% believe it is the "duty of Americans not to show fear about the threat of terrorism." Four out of 10 Americans still worry about themselves or family members being a victim of terrorism, though this proportion has declined in recent weeks, and is currently at its lowest point since the Sept. 11 attacks. Most Americans believe that the increased security efforts of the federal government have made the country safer.

The fact that Americans are living their lives as usual is underscored by the fact that very few have personally taken active measures to protect themselves from terrorism. The latest poll asked Americans which of several actions they have taken out of concern for terrorism. The most common action, but one done by only 23% of the public, is to use more caution when handling mail. About one in 10 say they are avoiding airline travel, researching information on terrorism preparedness, or stockpiling food and water. Only 2% say they have gone to the effort of purchasing a gas mask or other protective clothing, or tried to get a vaccination for anthrax or smallpox. Aside from using caution in handling mail, a majority has not even thought about doing any of these activities.


2001 Oct 19-21
(sorted by "done it")



Done it


Seriously considering

Not seriously considering

Haven't thought
about it

%

%

%

%

Using more caution in handling mail

23

30

16

30

Avoiding airline travel

11

15

20

51

Consulting a Web site or other source of information about terrorism preparedness

10

13

14

62

Stockpiling food or water

9

12

20

59

Avoiding public events or crowded areas

8

11

25

54

Purchasing a weapon

8

9

16

64

Discussing the treatment of biological or chemical warfare with your doctor

3

8

17

71

Trying to get a prescription for antibiotics

3

6

20

70

Trying to get a vaccination for anthrax or smallpox

2

15

21

62

Purchasing a gas mask or other protective clothing

2

6

21

71

Fear of Terrorism Lingers, but Level Dropping

The latest update shows 43% of Americans are at least somewhat worried about themselves or family members becoming the victim of a terrorist attack, including 13% who are very worried. Both percentages are the lowest recorded since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. For the first time since the attacks, a majority of Americans, 56%, say they are not too worried or not worried at all about becoming a victim.

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?

About one in three Americans believe that further terrorist attacks or acts of terrorism are "very likely" over the next several weeks. The percentage saying additional attacks are very likely has fallen six points when compared to a poll conducted on the night of Oct. 7, when the United States began its bombing campaign in Afghanistan.

Thirty-four percent of Americans say they have "good reason" to be personally afraid of terrorist threats, while 65% say they have little reason to fear these. Nonwhites (57%) are nearly twice as likely as whites (30%) to say they have good reason to be afraid. Differences also exist by age, as 40% of those 18-29 years old say they have reason to be afraid, while only 28% of those aged 65 and older say this. Thirty-nine percent of women say they have reason to be afraid compared to just 29% of men. Those living in the East (38%) and South (37%) are more likely to say they have reason to be afraid than are those living in the West (32%) or Midwest (28%). There is little difference in fear among those living in urban, suburban and rural areas.

Americans Believe Government Efforts Have Made the Country Safer

Nearly seven in 10 Americans think the government's efforts to protect its citizens since the Sept. 11 attacks have "been about right." Only 6% think these have gone too far, but a significant 24% say the efforts have not gone far enough. Similarly, 68% say visible signs of increased security, such as National Guard troops at airports, have made them feel more secure, while only 2% feel less secure and 30% say these signs have had no effect on them.

Most Americans do believe, too, that the government's efforts have made the United States safer. All told, 77% believe the nation is safer as a result of these efforts, including 30% who think the United States is a lot safer and 47% who think it is only a little safer. One in five believe the nation is not safer following the government's recent steps to protect Americans.

Would you say the efforts by the government to protect Americans since the September 11th attacks have made the U.S. safer, or not? Would you say a lot safer or only a little safer?
Oct. 19-21, ‘01

When considering additional steps the government could take to protect its citizens over the next several years, Americans are most likely to favor additional security measures at airports. Eighty percent favor limiting airline passengers to a single, small carry-on item such as a purse or briefcase, and 75% favor instituting new security procedures that would require passengers to check in two to three hours prior to their flight's departure. Americans are divided as to whether Arabs, including those who have become U.S. citizens, should be required to carry a special ID, a proposal favored by 49% and opposed by 49%. The public is least supportive of making it easier for legal authorities to read mail, e-mail or tap phones without the person's knowledge. Only 37% favor this proposal, while 60% are opposed.

The nation is divided, though, as to the effects of government warnings of further attacks. Forty-seven percent believe these have "helped people," while a similar proportion, 49%, believes these warnings have "just scared people."

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,006 adults, 18 years and older, conducted Oct. 19-21, 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.

Now thinking just about today, how would you describe your mood? Has it been -- [ROTATED: very good, somewhat good, neither good nor bad, somewhat bad, or very bad]?

 

 


Very
good


Somewhat good

Neither good
nor bad


Somewhat bad


Very
bad


No
opinion

             

2001 Oct 19-21

38%

40

12

7

2

1

             

2001 Jan 10-14

42%

41

9

5

2

1



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 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

             

^

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?

(vol.)Volunteered response

*

Less than 0.5%



Thinking about your daily life since the September 11th attacks, would you say you are going about your business as usual, or not?

 

 

Yes, going about business as usual


No, not

No
opinion

       

2001 Oct 19-21

89%

11

*

       
* Less than 0.5%


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?

BASED ON -- 502 -- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A; ±5 PCT. PTS.

 

 

Very
likely

Somewhat likely

Not too
likely

Not at all likely

No
opinion

 

%

%

%

%

%

           

2001 Oct 19-21

35

48

12

3

2

           

2001 Oct 7 ^

41

42

9

4

4

2001 Sep 21-22

22

44

24

8

2

           

^

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.



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?

BASED ON -- 504 -- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B; ±5 PCT. PTS.

 

 

Very
likely

Somewhat likely

Not too
likely

Not at all likely

No
opinion

           

2001 Oct 19-21

40%

45

10

3

2



Do you think the efforts by the government to protect Americans since the September 11th attacks have -- [ROTATED: gone too far, been about right, or not gone far enough]?

 

 


Gone too far

Been
about right

Not gone
far enough

No

opinion

         

2001 Oct 19-21

6%

69

24

1



Would you say the efforts by the government to protect Americans since the September 11th attacks have made the U.S. safer, or not?

 

 

Safer

Not safer

No opinion

       

2001 Oct 19-21

77%

20

3



Would you say a lot safer or only a little safer?

COMBINED RESPONSES (Q.10/Q.11)

 

 

A lot safer

Only a little safer

Not safer

No opinion

         

2001 Oct 19-21

30%

47

20

3



Do you think the government warnings of further terrorist attacks have mostly -- [ROTATED: helped people, (or) just scared people]?

 

 

Helped people

Just scared people

No opinion

       

2001 Oct 19-21

47%

49

4



Next, please tell me if you favor or oppose taking each of the following actions in the United States for at least several years. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

A. Requiring Arabs, including those who have become U.S. citizens, to carry a special ID

 

 

Favor

Oppose

No opinion

       

2001 Oct 19-21

49%

49

2



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

 

 

Favor

Oppose

No opinion

       

2001 Oct 19-21

75%

23

2



C. Limiting airline passengers to carry on only one small item such as a purse or briefcase

 

 

Favor

Oppose

No opinion

       

2001 Oct 19-21

80%

18

2



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

 

 

Favor

Oppose

No opinion

       

2001 Oct 19-21

37%

60

3



Next, I'm going to read you some things people may do because of their concern about terrorism. For each one, please tell me if it is something you have done, something you are seriously considering, something you are not seriously considering, or something you haven't even thought about. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

A. Purchasing a gas mask or other protective clothing

 

 



Done it


Seriously considering it


Not seriously considering it

Haven't thought
about it


No
opinion

           

2001 Oct 19-21

2%

6

21

71

*



B. Discussing the treatment of biological or chemical warfare with your doctor

 



Done it


Seriously considering it


Not seriously considering it

Haven't thought
about it


No
opinion

           

2001 Oct 19-21

3%

8

17

71

1



C. Trying to get a prescription for antibiotics

 



Done it


Seriously considering it


Not seriously considering it

Haven't thought
about it


No
opinion

           

2001 Oct 19-21

3%

6

20

70

1



D. Trying to get a vaccination for anthrax or smallpox

 



Done it


Seriously considering it


Not seriously considering it

Haven't thought
about it


No
opinion

           

2001 Oct 19-21

2%

15

21

62

*



E. Stockpiling food or water

 



Done it


Seriously considering it


Not seriously considering it

Haven't thought
about it


No
opinion

           

2001 Oct 19-21

9%

12

20

59

*



F. Purchasing a weapon

 



Done it


Seriously considering it


Not seriously considering it

Haven't thought
about it


No
opinion

           

2001 Oct 19-21

8%

9

16

64

3



G. Consulting a Web site or other source of information about terrorism preparedness

 



Done it


Seriously considering it


Not seriously considering it

Haven't thought
about it


No
opinion

           

2001 Oct 19-21

10%

13

14

62

1



H. Avoiding public events or crowded areas

 



Done it


Seriously considering it


Not seriously considering it

Haven't thought
about it


No
opinion

           

2001 Oct 19-21

8%

11

25

54

2



I. Avoiding airline travel

 



Done it


Seriously considering it


Not seriously considering it

Haven't thought
about it


No
opinion

           

2001 Oct 19-21

11%

15

20

51

3



J. Using more caution in handling mail

 



Done it


Seriously considering it


Not seriously considering it

Haven't thought
about it


No
opinion

           

2001 Oct 19-21

23%

30

16

30

1

           
           
* Less than 0.5%


Would you say the visible signs of increased security, such as National Guard troops at airports and the Coast Guard boarding ships at major U.S. ports, has made you feel -- [ROTATED: more secure (or) less secure] -- about potential terrorism, or have they had no effect on you either way?

 

 

More secure

Less secure

No effect

No opinion

         

2001 Oct 19-21

68%

2

30

*

         
* Less than 0.5%


Which of the following comes closer to your view -- [ROTATED: it is the duty of Americans not to show fear about the threat of terrorism, (or) there is nothing wrong with showing fear about terrorism]?

 

 

Duty not to
show fear

Nothing wrong
with showing fear

No
opinion

       

2001 Oct 19-21

26%

72

2



Which of the following comes closer to your view -- [ROTATED: there is little reason for you, personally, to be afraid of terrorist threats, (or) there is good reason for you, personally, to be afraid of terrorist threats]?

 

 

Little reason
to be afraid

Good reason
to be afraid

No
opinion

       

2001 Oct 19-21

65%

34

1



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