Public Expectations of New Terrorist Attacks Decline

by David W. Moore

Confidence in U.S. government to protect citizens from terrorism also declines

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- The terrorist bombing of a Christian church in Pakistan – which resulted in the death of two Americans – has brought the focus of attention back again to the possibility of additional terrorist acts within the United States. Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge last week unveiled a new color coded terrorism alert system designed to provide better information on the potential for such attacks to the American public.

According to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll earlier this month, Americans' expectations that further acts of terrorism will occur in the United States have declined substantially since the high point of concern last October. At the same time, the current poll shows that confidence in the federal government to protect its citizens from terrorism has declined since last September, immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks.

The poll, conducted March 8-9, shows that 52% of Americans say it is either very likely (9%) or somewhat likely (43%) that there will be further acts of terrorism over the next several weeks. Last September, a total of 66% of Americans said it was either very or somewhat likely that such attacks would occur. That percentage rose to over 80% in October, following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 and the discovery of anthrax in letters sent to members of Congress, but then fell gradually over the next several months.

Likelihood of Further Terrorist Acts in the United States Over Next Several Weeks

Although the percentages are much smaller, a similar pattern is found when Americans assess the likelihood of further acts of terrorism in their own community. Last November, 23% of Americans expected such acts to occur in their community, while today only 12% have such expectations.

Likelihood of Further Terrorist Acts Over Next Several Weeks in Your Own Community

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the federal government has taken many steps to tighten security in airports and other sensitive areas, and has even established a new cabinet-level post of Homeland Security to coordinate security efforts. Nevertheless, the poll shows that the public has become less confident in the ability of the government to provide protection from future terrorist attacks than it was last September. Just three days after the attacks, 41% of Americans expressed "a great deal" of confidence in the government in this area, and another 47% expressed a "fair amount" of confidence. In the latest poll, just 24% express a great deal of confidence, down 17 points from last September. However, the percentage saying they have a fair amount of confidence has risen by 11 percentage points to 58%.

Confidence in U.S. Government To Protect Its Citizens From Future Terrorist Attacks (Percent)

The decline in confidence as measured by the poll could be somewhat misleading, however. In the wake of the terrorist attacks, Americans appeared especially likely to rally around the nation and its leaders, as public ratings of government agencies and political leaders soared. The current reading could reflect perhaps a more sober assessment of what the government might be able to do. Also, it is worth noting that still more than eight in 10 Americans express at least a fair amount of confidence.

Few People Have Stockpiled Supplies In Case of Terrorist Attack

The poll shows that 13% of Americans say they currently have stockpiles of food, water, or other supplies in case of future terrorist attacks. However, the likelihood that someone has such stockpiles is not at all related to how much confidence people have in the government to protect citizens from the attacks. There is a slight tendency for younger people, under 30, to say they have stockpiled supplies (16%) than people 50 and older (10%). Also, people in the West (20%) are almost twice as likely to say they have stockpiled supplies than people in the rest of the country - 10% in the East, 12% in the Midwest, and 11% in the South.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with -- 802 -- national adults, aged 18+, conducted March 4-7, 2002. For results based on the total sample of National Adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is +/- 4 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.

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 -- 389 -- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A; ±5 PCT. PTS.

 

Very
likely

Somewhat likely

Not too
likely

Not at all likely

No
opinion

 

%

%

%

%

%

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

           

^

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?



How likely is it that there will be further acts of terrorism in YOUR COMMUNITY over the next several weeks -- very likely, somewhat likely, not too likely, or not at all likely?

BASED ON -- 413 -- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B; ±5 PCT. PTS.

 

Very
likely

Somewhat likely

Not too
likely

Not at all likely

No
opinion

 

%

%

%

%

%

2002 Mar 8-9

2

10

35

52

1

           

2001 Nov 2-4

3

20

41

32

4



How much confidence do you have in the U.S. government to protect its citizens from future terrorist attacks -- a great deal, fair amount, not very much, or none at all?

 

 

Great
deal

Fair
amount

Not very much


None at all

No
opinion

 

%

%

%

%

%

2002 Mar 8-9

24

58

15

2

1

           

2001 Sep 14-15

41

47

9

2

1



As a result of the events that occurred on September 11th, do you currently have stockpiles of food, water, or other supplies in case of future terrorist attacks, or not?

 

 

Yes

No

No opinion

 

%

%

%

2002 Mar 8-9

13

87

*



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