The world has changed significantly for most Americans since Sept. 11, 2001. They face a glaring reminder of that change every time the terror alert level is raised and lowered. Much naiveté that once was, has been lost.
American teens' visions of their own futures certainly reflect the new realities that terrorism has imposed. In the 2003 Gallup Youth Survey*, Gallup asked teens (aged 13 to 17) how they think eight different things -- changes in the environment, political terrorists, the Internet, the federal budget deficit, racial prejudice, genetic engineering, religious fanatics, and space travel -- will influence their futures. Eighty-nine percent of teens** say that political terrorists will have "a lot" or "some" influence on their futures -- similar to that given for changes in the environment (91%), the Internet (88%), and the federal budget deficit (86%). A majority, 52%, of American teens say political terrorists will have "a lot" of influence on their futures, the highest score for any item.
A somewhat lower percentage of American teens say they believe that religious fanatics will influence their futures. The separation in teens' minds between political terrorists and religious fanatics is intriguing, given that Osama bin Laden and other members of al Qaeda are tied to religious extremism. Teens are as likely to say that religious fanatics will have a lot or some influence on their futures (72%) as they are to say that space travel (70%) and genetic engineering (78%) will.
Proximity to NYC and D.C. Doesn't Influence Responses . . .
Given their proximity to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the preponderance of possible targets for future terrorist attacks in this region, it might be expected that teens in the Northeast would be more likely to see their futures influenced by political terrorists. Indeed, among adults living in the United States, those residing in the Northeast have tended to express more concern about terrorism than residents of other parts of the country do. However, there are no statistical differences among teens in different regions of the country in these ratings. Ninety-one percent of teens in the Northeast say political terrorists will have a lot or some influence on their futures, as do 87% of teens in the Midwest, 88% in the South, and 89% in the West. In fact, regardless of geographic region, level of academic standing, church attendance, and political inclination, teens share similar views on the amount of influence that political terrorists and religious fanatics will have on their futures.
. . . But Gender Does
However, that is not to say that all teens share similar views on these subjects. Boys and girls' opinions differ on the degree to which political terrorists and religious fanatics will influence their lives.
Girls are somewhat more likely than boys to say that religious fanatics will have a lot or some influence on their futures -- 75% to 66%, respectively. Thirty-two percent of girls and 21% of boys say they think religious fanatics will have a lot of influence on their futures. Conversely, 24% of girls say that religious fanatics will not have much influence; 33% of boys say the same.
Although girls and boys are almost equally as likely to say that political terrorists will have a lot or some influence on their futures (89% of girls and 88% of boys), girls are significantly more likely to say "a lot." Fifty-seven percent of girls select this response, compared with 46% of boys. This echoes the finding among U.S. adults that shows women much more likely than men to express concern over terrorism.
*The Gallup Youth Survey is conducted via an Internet methodology provided by Knowledge Networks, using an online research panel that is designed to be representative of the entire U.S. population. The current questionnaire was completed by 1,200 respondents, aged 13 to 17, between Jan. 23-Feb. 10, 2003. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3%. For a complete description of the sampling and weighting procedures used to conduct the survey, click here.
**The Gallup Youth Survey was still in the field when the terror alert was raised to orange status on Feb. 7. However, a comparison of data collected before and after Feb. 7 show no difference in results.