Americans Expected More Terrorist Attacks Post-Sept. 11

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Public overwhelmingly satisfied with progress of the war on terrorism

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Nearly a year after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll finds Americans continue to believe that further terrorist acts are likely to occur in this country. Seven in 10 Americans say they expected more terrorist attacks to occur in the past 12 months, although most credit actions by the United States for preventing them. The public is satisfied with the way things are going in the war on terrorism, and the president and Congress both get high marks for their handling of the war. Americans remain fairly confident in the government's ability to protect its citizens from future attacks. While most Americans will not take time off work to remember Sept. 11, the vast majority say they will watch a memorial service on television or attend one in person.

Expectations of Future Terrorism

The poll, conducted Sept. 2-4, shows that 60% of Americans say that further acts of terrorism in this country are at least somewhat likely. This number is similar to those measured in recent months, but still much lower than that measured on Oct. 19-21, 2001 (85%), shortly after the United States began military action in Afghanistan.

Likelihood of Future Acts of Terrorism

Additionally, seven in 10 Americans say they expected terrorist acts in the past 12 months, while 29% did not. When asked why no attacks occurred in the past year, 71% of the public says that actions by the United States prevented them. Just 24% believe that further attacks did not occur simply because the terrorists did not have any planned so soon after Sept. 11.

After the Sept. 11 Terrorist Attacks, Were You Expecting More Attacks to Occur in the United States Over the Last 12 Months?
Sep 2-4, 2002
Why Have There Been No Additional Terrorist Attacks Since Sept. 11?
Sep 2-4, 2002

On a separate matter, 88% of Americans say there are terrorists associated with Osama bin Laden in this country who are capable of launching a major terrorist attack against the United States.

Confidence in the government to protect its citizens from future terrorist attacks remains fairly high and is about where it has been throughout 2002 -- 24% express a great deal of confidence, 56% a fair amount, and 16% do not express much confidence.

Confidence in Government's Ability to Protect Citizens

While confidence remains high, it is not as intense as it was in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. A Sept. 14-15, 2001, CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll showed 41% of the public expressing a great deal of confidence in the government's ability to protect its citizens from terrorism, and an additional 47% expressing a fair amount. Perhaps Americans do not show a greater degree of confidence in the government due to the belief (held by 60% of the public) that terrorists will always find a way to launch attacks no matter what the government does, while 37% hold the view that government can prevent all major attacks if it works hard enough at it.

The War on Terrorism

In general, public support for the war on terrorism is high. Seventy-five percent of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going for the United States in the war on terrorism, including 14% who are very satisfied. Only 24% are dissatisfied. Seventy-five percent of Americans also approve of how President George W. Bush is handling the war on terrorism, while 23% disapprove. This marks a significant decline from Bush's 87% approval in December 2001, and 89% in November 2001.

Roughly two in three Americans approve of the way Congress is handling the war on terrorism, while 27% disapprove. Congress' numbers also show some decay -- it had 77% approval in November. Additionally, 86% approve of the way the American people are handling the war effort, compared with 90% approval in December.

Approval Ratings of Handling the Terrorist Attacks
Sep 2-4, 2002

About one in five Americans say it is "very likely" that the United States will be able to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. This is slightly more than the percentage who thought this in March (16%), but is roughly half of what it was in December (43%), shortly after the United States removed the Taliban government from power in Afghanistan.

How Likely Is It That the U.S. Will Be Able to Capture or Kill Osama Bin Laden?

Remembering Sept. 11

The poll suggests that most Americans will take time to remember the attacks in some way, but most will still attend to their other obligations that day. A little more than one-third (37%) of Americans say they will attend a memorial ceremony or service in person this Sept. 11. While 60% of Americans will not personally attend a memorial activity, the vast majority (78%) will watch a memorial service on television. Only 20% of the public says they will not watch any kind of memorial ceremony on television. But most Americans, 68% (including 80% for whom the question applies) will work their usual Wednesday workday on Sept. 11. Only 17% of Americans say they will work fewer hours than they normally do on Wednesdays.

What Will You Do on Sept. 11?
Sep 2-4, 2002

There has been some debate over whether replaying footage of the terrorist attacks, particularly the horrific events involving the World Trade Towers, is necessary or advisable in the media's anniversary coverage of Sept. 11. A slim majority of Americans, 54%, say that TV networks should show the collapse of the World Trade Center's Twin Towers on Sept. 11, while 43% say they should not.

When asked what should be built on the site where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center previously stood (in addition to the planned memorial), the public is divided. Thirty percent think the Towers should be rebuilt as they were, 32% think that smaller offices should be built on the site, and 32% think that no offices should be built on the site.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,003 adults, 18 years and older, conducted Sept. 2-4, 2002. 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.

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?

 

Very
likely

Somewhat likely

Not too
likely

Not at all likely

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2002 Sep 2-4

12

48

28

9

3

2002 Jul 5-8

15

41

30

12

2

2002 May 20-22

21

44

25

7

3

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?



 

 

Do you approve or disapprove of George W. Bush's policies to deal with the threat of terrorism?

 

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

2002 Sep 2-4

76%

18

6



Do you approve or disapprove of U.S. military action in Afghanistan?

 

 

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

%

%

%

2002 Sep 2-4

83

13

4

2002 Mar 8-9 ^

91

7

2

2002 Jan 25-27

89

9

2

2001 Dec 6-9

88

9

3

2001 Nov 26-27

92

6

2

2001 Nov 2-4

86

11

3

2001 Oct 19-21

88

10

2

^

WORDING: Do you approve or disapprove of the current U.S. military action in the war on terrorism?



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

 

Great
deal

Fair
amount

Not very much


None at all

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2002 Sep 2-4

24

56

16

3

1

2002 Jun 7-8

27

49

17

5

2

2002 May 20-22

22

54

18

5

1

2002 Mar 8-9

24

58

15

2

1

2001 Sep 14-15

41

47

9

2

1



How satisfied are you with the way things are going for the U.S. in the war on terrorism -- very satisfied, somewhat satisfied, not too satisfied, or not at all satisfied?

 

Very
satisfied

Somewhat
satisfied

Not too
satisfied

Not at all
satisfied

No
opinion

2002 Sep 2-4

14%

61

18

6

1



Do you think you will or will not do any of the following next week on Wednesday, Sept. 11? How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

A. Attend a memorial ceremony or service in person

 

Yes,
will do

No,
will not

NOT APPLICABLE (vol.)

No
opinion

2002 Sep 2-4

37%

60

*

3



B. Watch a memorial ceremony or service on television

 

Yes,
will do

No,
will not

NOT APPLICABLE (vol.)

No
opinion

2002 Sep 2-4

78%

20

1

1



C. Work fewer hours than you usually do on Wednesdays

 

Yes,
will do

No,
will not

NOT APPLICABLE (vol.)

No
opinion

2002 Sep 2-4

17%

68

14

1



Do you think television networks should -- or should not -- show scenes of the collapse of the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11?

 

 

Yes, should

No, should not

No opinion

2002 Sep 2-4

54%

43

3



Do you approve or disapprove of the way the following people are handling the war on terrorism since Sept. 11? How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

A. George W. Bush

 

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

2002 Sep 2-4

75%

23

2

2001 Dec 6-9

87%

10

3

2001 Nov 8-11 ^

89%

8

3

^

Based on half sample.



B. Congress

 

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

2002 Sep 2-4

67%

27

6

2001 Nov 8-11 ^

77%

16

7

^

Based on half sample.



C. The American people

 

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

2002 Sep 2-4

86%

10

4

2001 Dec 6-9

90%

8

2



Which comes closer to your view -- [ROTATED: the terrorists will always find a way to launch major attacks no matter what the U.S. government does, (or) the U.S. government can eventually prevent all major attacks if it works hard enough at it]?

 

Always find a
way to launch

Can prevent
all major attacks

No
opinion

2002 Sep 2-4

60%

37

3



How likely is it that the U.S. will be able to capture or kill Osama bin Laden-- very likely, somewhat likely, not too likely, or not at all likely?

 

Very
likely

Somewhat
likely

Not too
likely

Not at all
likely

Already dead (vol.)

No
opinion

2002 Sep 2-4

21%

38

26

10

2

3

2002 Mar 8-9

16%

39

29

13

--

3

2001 Dec 14-16

43%

33

16

6

--

2

2001 Nov 26-27

34%

44

15

6

--

1



Just your best guess, do you think there are terrorists associated with Osama bin Laden who are currently in the United States and are capable of launching a major terrorist attack against the U.S., or not?

 

Yes, are terrorists

No, are not

No opinion

2002 Sep 2-4

88%

10

2



After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, were you expecting more attacks to occur in the United States over the last 12 months, or did you not think another attack would occur in the United States during that time?

BASED ON --507-- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A

 

Yes, expecting
more attacks

No, did not think
another would occur

No
opinion

2002 Sep 2-4

70%

29

1



Which comes closer to your view about why there have been no additional terrorist attacks since Sept. 11 -- [ROTATED: the terroristsdid not have any other attacks planned so soon after Sept. 11, (or) the terrorists had other attacks planned, but actions by the U.S. prevented them from happening]?

BASED ON --496-- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B

 

Did not have
any planned

U.S. prevented
other attacks

No
opinion

2002 Sep 2-4

24%

71

5



As you may know, there are plans to build a memorial at the site where the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center previously stood. What do you think should be built in addition to the memorial at this site -- [ROTATED: the Twin Towers should be rebuilt as they were, smaller office buildings should be built, or do you think no office building should be built at all]?

 

Rebuilt
as they were

Smaller
offices built

No office
building at all

No
opinion

2002 Sep 2-4

30%

32

32

6



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