Poll: Many Americans Feel Less Safe

generic poll america US terror alert levelks homeland security iraq war september eleven CBS/AP

Do Americans feel safer now than before 9/11? For many, the answer is no, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll.

Fifty-four percent of Americans say they generally feel safe, but 46 percent say they feel somewhat uneasy or in danger.

Compared with five years ago, 39 percent of Americans say they feel less safe now, compared with only 14 percent who say they feel safer. Forty-six percent say they feel the same.

More also say the threat of terrorism has grown since 9/11 than said so a year ago. Forty-one percent say the threat has increased since the attacks, an 11 percent jump from last year. Just 14 percent say the threat has decreased, while 43 percent say the threat has not changed.

How safe do you feel compared to five years ago?

More Safe
14%
Less Safe
39%
Same
46%

Also, by a four-to-one margin (48 percent to 12 percent), Americans think the war in Iraq has made the threat of terrorism against the United States worse rather than better.

Five years after 9/11, most Americans say life has returned to the way it was before the attacks, at least in part. However, some behavior has changed: One in four Americans say they are less likely to fly now, and one in five are less likely to attend large events with thousands of people.

Has life in America returned to what it was before the 9/11 attacks?

Mostly Returned
28%
Somewhat Returned
48%
Has Not Returned
23%

Nearly one in four people say they still feel nervous and edgy. Women are more likely than men to say their behavior has been affected.

Both the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan are viewed as having created breeding grounds for terrorists. Fifty-four percent say the wars have created more terrorists, while just 15 percent say they've eliminated terrorists.

There's also increased pessimism about the overall war on terrorism, with 21 percent — the highest number ever — saying the terrorists are winning. Thirty-six percent say the United States is winning and 38 percent say neither side is winning.

Fewer than half of Americans are confident the United States will capture Osama bin Laden, the man believed responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

Still, a majority of Americans, 55 percent, say they approve of how President Bush is handling the war on terror — his highest rating in more than a year, but a sharp decrease from December 2001, when 90 percent approved.

About half of those polled say Bush administration policies have made America safer, but one in four say they've made the United States less safe. A similar number say they've had no effect.

One explanation for that skepticism may be that nearly half of Americans don't think terrorism is a problem a president can do much about.

Americans are split on how prepared the United States is to deal with another terrorist attack: 49 percent think the country is prepared, 43 percent think it is not. Americans are especially worried about a potential biological or chemical attack — 73 percent say the United States is not prepared for that.

The number of Americans who say another attack on the United States is likely has dropped to 59 percent, down from a high of 78 percent in the weeks after 9/11. People in the Northeast, where the attacks on the World Trade Center occurred, are the most concerned that their area will be targeted, while those in the Midwest are the least concerned.

Nearly six in 10 say the government has not done all it could to make the country safe from future attacks.

For detailed information on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys, click here.


The poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 1206 adults, interviewed by telephone August 17-21, 2006. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on the complete sample.

  • Joel Roberts

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