Impact of Terrorism on the Daily Lives of Americans

by Jeffrey M. Jones and Joseph Carroll

Nine in 10 Americans are going about their business as usual

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

Key Point Summary

  • Roughly three in four Americans consider some aspect of terrorism -- terrorism itself, fear of war, national security, and the possible loss of freedoms because of war -- to be the most important problem facing the nation today.
  • Sixty-seven percent of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in the United States, which is the highest percentage since January 2000.
  • Recent polling shows that concern about becoming a victim of a terrorist attack has decreased. For the first time since Sept. 11, a majority of Americans, 56%, say they are not too worried or not at all worried about becoming a victim of terrorism.
  • An Oct. 19-21 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows that almost nine in 10 Americans are going about their business as usual and have taken few specific steps to protect themselves from terrorism.
  • Roughly three in four Americans feel that efforts by the U.S. government to prevent terrorism have made the United States safer. However, Americans are divided -- 47% to 49% -- on whether government warnings about further terrorist attacks has helped or just scared people.

Findings in Detail

There is little doubt that the war on terrorism has come to dominate Americans' consciousness, as is starkly evident in the answers to Gallup's classic "What is the most important problem facing the nation" question. Almost three-quarters of Americans interviewed Oct. 11-14 mention some aspect of the war on terrorism: terrorism itself (at 46%, by far the top response to this question), fear of war, national security, the possible loss of personal freedoms because of the war, and international issues in general. The problems that were in the minds of the public just before Sept. 11 -- the economy, education, ethics, and crime -- have tumbled in significance.

 

At the same time, a "mood index" --based on the public's overall satisfaction levels, perceptions of the economy, and ratings of the president (as of Oct. 11-14) -- is as high as it has been at any point since November 2000. It continues to reflect the 20-percentage-point increase that occurred just after the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Satisfaction with the way things are going in this country," at 67%, is as high as it has been since January 2000, when the country was still in the midst of the unparalleled economic boom of the late 1990s. Just a month ago, in our Sept. 7-10 poll, only 43% of Americans were satisfied with the way things are going in the country.

Americans are Going About Their Business As Usual

An Oct. 19-21 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows that Americans are not generally making major changes in the way they live their lives. Eighty-nine percent say they are going about their business as usual and very few have taken specific steps, such as purchasing a gas mask or a weapon, to protect themselves from terrorism. In fact, a majority of Americans say they have not even thought about taking steps to protect themselves from being victimized by terrorism.

Additionally, the poll shows 43% of Americans are at least somewhat worried that they or a family member may become 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 then, 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?
Oct. 19-21, ‘01

Most Americans believe that the government’s efforts since Sept. 11 have made the United States safer. All told, 77% believe the nation is safer as a result, including 30% who think it 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 protective actions.

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."

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 them. Twenty-six percent feel it is the duty of Americans not to show fear about the threat of terrorism, while 72% say there is nothing wrong with showing such fear.


Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/9988/impact-terrorism-daily-lives-americans.aspx
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