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CBS Poll: Oklahoma City And Waco

Five years have done little to diminish the perceived threat of domestic terrorism raised by the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in April, 1995. According to a national CBS News poll, two-thirds of Americans currently believe that similar events will happen in the future, the same proportion who thought so directly following the bombing.

Will Oklahoma City Happen Again Was It An Isolated Incident?

  Now 4/95
Happen Again 68% 67%

Isolated Incident 26% 26%

Part of the threat comes from the belief that anti-government sentiments, like those that led to Oklahoma City, have been on the rise and are now fairly common. Forty-three percent of adults believe that the number of people who harbor anti-government feelings has risen in the past five years, while 45 percent believe thnumber unchanged; only 7 percent think the number has decreased. As a result, three-quarters currently say that some or a lot of adults in America have anti-government feelings. In contrast, only one in five say that not many or no Americans have anti-government feelings.

On the positive side, 55 percent of Americans believe that the Oklahoma City bombing taught America some lessons, and that we may be able to prevent such occurrences in the future. Even among these optimists, however, over half still believe more incidents like this will happen.

Can Acts Like Oklahoma City Be Prevented?

Can Be Prevented 55%

Cannot Be Prevented 38%

Americans are divided over the handling of the clash at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas in April 1993 – one of the sparks for the Oklahoma City bombing. Forty-one percent approve of the way the FBI and other authorities handled the standoff, while 40 percent disapprove.

FBI's Actions Waco

  Now 1995 1993 (ABC News Poll)
Approve 41% 42% 70%

Disapprove 40% 40% 27%

Directly following the standoff in April of 1993, an ABC News poll found public approval of the FBI's handling of the incident at 70 percent. But that support dropped to 42 percent in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, and it has remained unchanged since.

Attorney general Janet Reno's image has suffered a similar decline. Her favorable ratings went negative for the first time late last year, after an independent counsel was appointed to study the events at Waco. Currently the public is divided: 31 percent view the Attorney General favorably, while 30 percenview her unfavorably.

While many Americans do not approve of the way the government handled the standoff, most people lay the blame for the subsequent fire and deaths at the feet of the cult members and their leader David Koresh. When asked whom they hold the most responsible, 47 percent point to the cult members, while only 10 percent mention the FBI - the next most common answer.

Who's To Blame For Events At Waco?

Davidians/Koresh 47%

FBI 10%

Janet Reno 7%

People are divided over whether we'll ever know the whole truth of the events at the compound: 47 percent say we will, while 45 percent say we will not. Democrats are more optimistic about this than Republicans - 53 percent of Democrats say we will find the truth, but 51 percent of Republicans say we won't.

Contributing to this pessimism is the belief that there has been a government cover-up of the facts of the case. Half of Amercans believe there has been a cover-up, while one-third believe there has not been. Young adults are the most likely to believe in a cover-up – 61 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds say there has been an official cover-up.

At the same time, however, belief in a government cover-up has dropped significantly since just late last year: in October, 1999, 62 percent of Americans thought there had been a government conspiracy to hide the facts. In addition, fewer Americans believe in a Waco cover-up than believe there was a cover-up in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963: in late 1998, 74 percent of Americans said there was a government cover-up in JFK's death.

This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 1,150 adults interviewed by telephone April 15-17, 2000. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on the total sample.
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