The War on Terror: An Update on Public Opinion

Posted July 12, 2005 at 1:41pm

In the wake of the terrorist bombings in London, it seems appropriate to take a look at the question: Are we safer?

Most of the data now available was collected before the London attacks. For instance, In late June, 61 percent of respondents — down from 79 percent in May 2004 — told Gallup/CNN/USA Today interviewers that they had a great deal or a moderate amount of confidence in the Bush administration to protect U.S. citizens from future acts of terrorism. Twenty-one percent said they didn’t have much confidence, and 17 percent said they had none at all.

[IMGCAP(1)]In a June 2005 Harris Interactive survey, 57 percent gave the administration excellent or good marks for the job it had done in preventing a terrorist act since Sept. 11, 2001; 41 percent gave it fair or poor marks.

In a June ABC News/Washington Post poll, 52 percent — down from 62 percent in July 2003 — said the war with Iraq had contributed to the long-term security of the United States. Forty-six percent in the new poll said it had not.

How the Fight Is Going: In late June, 52 percent told Gallup/CNN/USA Today interviewers that they were very or somewhat satisfied with the way things were going for the United States in the war on terrorism. Forty-seven percent were not too satisfied or not at all satisfied. Satisfaction was about where it was a year ago — 55 percent satisfied — but was down considerably from September 2002, when 75 percent were satisfied.

Can We Live With Terrorists? In January, 68 percent told Fox News/Opinion Dynamics interviewers that it was essential for the United States to win the war on terror. Eighteen percent said we could co-exist with terrorists.

Becoming a Victim of Terrorism: Averaging the responses to identical Gallup questions shows that in 2001, 48 percent were worried that they or someone in their family would become a victim of terrorism. The average for 2002 was 39 percent, for 2003, 38 percent, for 2004, 39 percent and thus far this year, 38 percent.

In a Gallup/CNN poll taken July 7, 30 percent of Americans said that they and their immediate family felt very safe from the kind of attacks that occurred in London, 53 percent somewhat safe, 10 percent not very and 5 percent not at all.

Republicans, Democrats and Fighting Terrorism: The Security and Peace Institute, a joint project of the Center for American Progress and the Century Foundation, commissioned the Martilla Communications Group to conduct an in-depth poll on foreign policy attitudes in January 2005.

Many of the questions dealt with terrorism. On capturing Osama Bin Laden, 52 percent trusted the Republicans more, 24 percent the Democrats. On protecting the U.S. homeland, the responses were 50 percent Republicans, 30 percent Democrats. On keeping you and your family safe from terrorism, the responses were 49 percent to 29 percent, Republicans over Democrats.

How the Muslim World Views Europe: A new Pew survey shows that the United States has an image problem in the Muslim world. But we are not alone.

In a survey from late spring 2005, 7 percent of those surveyed in Pakistan had a lot or some confidence in British Prime Minister Tony Blair (37 percent had no confidence in him). The equivalent numbers were 18 percent in Lebanon (50 percent had no confidence), 3 percent in Jordan (64 percent had no confidence) and 27 percent in Indonesia (12 percent had no confidence). Majorities in Lebanon and Jordan had confidence in French President Jacques Chirac, but far fewer in the other countries did.

Majorities in Lebanon and Indonesia (85 and 71 percent, respectively) had a favorable view of Germany, but that was not the case in Pakistan, Jordan or Turkey. Thirty percent of the Turks, 32 percent of Pakistanis, 50 percent of Jordanians, 68 percent of Indonesians, and 84 percent of the Lebanese surveyed had a favorable view of France. In all of these countries, unfavorable views of the United States outweighed favorable ones (80 percent to 21 percent in Jordan; 67-23 in Turkey; 60-23 in Pakistan; 57-38 in Indonesia and 58-42 in Lebanon).

Karlyn Bowman is a resident fellow specializing in public opinion and polls at the American Enterprise Institute.