Poll: Terror Threat Is Permanent

President Bush delivers remarks from the South Lawn of the White House, Friday, Sept. 9, 2005 during the 9/11 Heroes Medal of Valor Award ceremony. Nearly four years after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Bush praised the heroes of Sept. 11, 2001 and reasserted his commitment to the war on terror. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) AP

Four years after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, most Americans think they will always have to live with the threat of terrorism, but fewer now think an attack against the United States is likely than ever before. They are divided on whether or not the government has done enough to provide security in the air, but most don't want to ease some air travel security regulations.

LIVING WITH TERRORISM

About eight in 10 say Americans will always have to live with the threat of terrorism in the United States, while only 19 percent think the threat of terrorism can someday be eliminated. Large majorities have said that Americans will always have to live with the threat of terrorism since this poll began asking the question in September 2002.

WILL AMERICANS ALWAYS HAVE TO LIVE WITH THE THREAT OF TERRORISM?

Aug. 2005
Yes
79%
No
19%

Sept. 2004
Yes
71%
No
25%

However, the number who think another terrorist attack in the United States is likely in the next few months is at its lowest point ever in this poll, and much lower than it was after 9/11. Fifty-two percent now say an attack against the United States is likely. In the weeks after the attacks of September 11th, 2001, 78 percent said another attack against the United States was likely in the coming months, and while that number dropped some over the years, as recently as last September 66 percent still said a terrorist against the United States was likely.

LIKELIHOOD OF TERROR ATTACK IN U.S. IN NEXT FEW MONTHS

Aug. 2005
Very likely
9%
Somewhat likely
43%
Not likely
42%

Sept. 2004
Very likely
18%
Somewhat likely
48%
Not likely
31%

Sept. 2002
Very likely
23%
Somewhat likely
46%
Not likely
28%

Sept. 2001
Very likely
36%
Somewhat likely
42%
Not likely
20%

AIRPORT SECURITY

The public is divided as to whether the federal government has done all it could reasonably be expected to improve airport security since 9/11. Fifty percent say the federal government has done all it could since September 11th, 2001, but 46 percent say they could have done more. The public has mostly been divided on this question since the fall of 2001.

HAS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT DONE ENOUGH TO IMPROVE AIRPORT SECURITY?

Aug. 2005
Yes
50%
No
46%

The federal government is now considering some changes to the country's air travel security system. One change includes lifting the ban on carry-on items such as scissors, razor blades and small knives. The public, however, disagrees with the government on this. Seventy-nine percent say passengers should not be allowed to carry on such items in their carry-on luggage.

SHOULD PASSENGERS BE ALLOWED TO CARRY ITEMS LIKE SCISSORS AND RAZOR BLADES ABOARD AN AIRPLANE?

Aug. 2005
Yes
18%
No
79%

In most airports, passengers are required to remove their shoes before going through security checkpoints and Americans think that's just fine. Sixty-seven percent think requiring passengers to take off their shoes is necessary while 28 percent think it is not.

IS IT NECESSARY FOR PASSENGERS TO REMOVE SHOES AT AIRPORT SECURITY?

Aug. 2005
Yes
67%
No
28%

THE WAR ON TERROR

Thirty-eight percent of Americans say the United States and its allies are winning the war on terrorism, but just as many say neither side is winning. Just 15 percent say the terrorists are winning. These views have not changed much over the past year.

WHO IS WINNING THE WAR ON TERRORISM?

Aug. 2005
U.S. and allies
38%
Neither side
39%
Terrorists
15%

But while concern about an attack may have lessened recently, 30% of Americans say the threat of terrorism against the U.S. has increased overall since 9/11, and more (49%) say the threat has stayed the same. Fewer than one in five believe the threat of terrorism has decreased.

SINCE 9/11 HOW HAS THE TERROR THREAT TO THE U.S. CHANGED?

Aug. 2005
Increased
30%
Stayed the same
49%
Decreased
18%

Coupled with the public's concern about the overall terror threat, there has been a recent decline in the perception of the government's ability to protect Americans from attacks. In the wake of public criticism of the government's response to Hurricane Katrina, a new CBS News Poll conducted this week shows that 40 percent of Americans now have either not much or no confidence in the government's ability to protects citizens from terrorism, up from 26 percent in late August.

CONFIDENCE IN GOVERNMENT'S ABILITY TO PROTECT CITIZENS FROM TERRORISM

Sept. 6-7
A great deal
19%
A fair amount
40%
Not much/none
40%

Aug. 29-31
A great deal
18%
A fair amount
54%
Not much/none
26%

Since the attacks of 9/11, President Bush's strongest area has been his handling of terrorism. In the months after the terrorist attacks, nine in 10 Americans approved of the way he was handling the campaign against terrorism, and over the past few years significant majorities have approved of his handling of the issue. Today, however, barely a majority – 51 percent - approve of Bush's handling of terrorism. That matches his lowest rating ever.

BUSH'S HANDLING OF TERRORISM

Sept. 2005
Approve
51%
Disapprove
40%

Sept. 2004
Approve
62%
Disapprove
31%

Dec. 2001
Approve
90%
Disapprove
6%



August survey: this poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 871 adults, interviewed by telephone August 29-31, 2005. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on all adults. Error for subgroups is higher.
September survey: this poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 725 adults, interviewed by telephone September 6-7, 2005. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus four percentage points.


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

  • Sean Alfano

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