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Poll: More Concerned About Terror

Last week's bombings in London have brought at least some Americans' attention back to the issue of terrorism-- more than twice as many now say terrorism is the most important problem facing the U.S. than did so last month. 15 percent volunteer terrorism as the most important issue, compared to just 6 percent last month.

But terrorism is still not the top issue for Americans -- the war in Iraq is still seen as the top problem, followed by terrorism and then the economy and jobs.

MOST IMPORTANT PROBLEM

Iraq
Now
22%
6/2005
19%

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Terrorism
Now
15%
6/2005
6%

Economy/jobs
Now
13%
6/2005
18%

Education
Now
5%
6/2005
3%

Many Americans are unconvinced the war in Iraq has reduced the threat of terrorism for the U.S. -- in fact, most even think it has increased, not decreased the number of terrorists who are planning to strike. And while most think the U.S. government has done all it could to make air travel safer, most also say there is more work needed to improve security on trains and transit systems, and to improve the safety of the nation overall.

The London bombings, however, have not had much of an impact on President George W. Bush's approval ratings. 45 percent approve of the way the President is handling his job -- three points higher than his June rating, which was close to the lowest rating ever found in this poll.

FEARS OF A TERROR ATTACK

Two-thirds now say a terrorist attack against the U.S. in the coming months is likely (including one in five who thinks it is very likely.) Feelings were similar last fall before the election. Last July, shortly after the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning about possible terrorist attacks, even more Americans (71 percent) thought an attack was likely.

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

Likely
Now
65%
9/2004
66%
7/2004
71%

Not likely
Now
32%
9/2004
31%
7/2004
27%

Women are more likely than men to say another attack is likely, and Americans age 45 and over are more apt than younger Americans to say one is likely to happen.

However, fewer than one in four is very concerned about such an attack in the area where they themselves live. 77 percent are not very concerned. Those who live in the Northeast are most likely to say they are concerned about attacks in their own community; Westerners and those in the Midwest are least concerned. Perhaps not surprisingly, those living in large cities are more likely to be concerned than those in rural areas.

CONCERNED ABOUT TERRORIST ATTACK IN YOUR AREA

Total
21%
Northeast
29%
Midwest
17%
South
22%
West
16%

And while British authorities search for all those involved in the London bombings, nearly all Americans -- 94 percent - think there are terrorists already living inside the U.S. planning to launch future attacks in America.

ARE THERE TERRORISTS INSIDE THE U.S. PLANNING FUTURE ATTACKS?

Yes
94%
No
3%

IRAQ AND TERROR

Despite the Bush Administration's arguments that Iraq has become a central front in the war on terror, most Americans fear U.S. involvement in Iraq is actually creating more terrorists who are planning to strike the U.S., not eliminating them. Fewer than one in five thinks it is reducing their number.

IS U.S. INVOLVEMENT IN IRAQ…?

Creating more terrorists
52%
Eliminating terrorists
17%
Not changing number of terrorists
22%

And 44 percent say the war has increased the overall threat of terrorism against the United States, more than thought so in January, but fewer than thought so last June.

HOW HAS IRAQ WAR CHANGED TERROR THREAT TO U.S.?

Increased it
Now
44%
1/2005
33%
6/2004
47%

Kept it same
Now
42%
1/2005
47%
6/2004
38%

Decreased it
Now
13%
1/2005
19%
6/2004
13%

Americans continue to divide on whether Iraq is part of the war on terror at all. While more than a third of Americans do see Iraq as a major part of the broader war on terror, another nine percent see it as just a minor part -- and half think it is not part at all. These views are mostly unchanged from last fall, but very different from views during the first weeks of the war in April and May 2003, when most Americans saw the conflict as a major part of the campaign against terror.

IS IRAQ PART OF THE WAR ON TERROR?

Yes, major part
Now
37%
11/2004
34%
4/2003
53%

Yes, minor part
Now
9%
11/2004
9%
4/2003
13%

No, not part
Now
50%
11/2004
51%
4/2003
30%

43 percent say the Bush Administration has been too focused on Iraq and not enough on terrorists operating elsewhere. 44 percent say the Administration's balance has been about right.

BUSH ADMINISTRATION'S FOCUS HAS BEEN…

Too much on Iraq
43%
Too much on terrorists elsewhere
6%
About right
44%


U.S. TROOPS IN IRAQ

The public is cautiously optimistic about U.S. prospects for success in Iraq, and most want to see a timetable for bringing the troops home – though Americans divide on whether or not troops should start leaving right away.

Most Americans continue to say that today things are going badly for the U.S. in its efforts to bring stability to that country: 54 percent view the situation that way.

HOW ARE THINGS GOING NOW FOR THE U.S. IN IRAQ?

Well
44%
Badly
54%

Looking ahead, the public holds a guarded optimism that the U.S. will ultimately succeed in Iraq. 62 percent say it is likely that the U.S. will ultimately succeed there, though only 22 percent think that is very likely to happen. 35 percent think it unlikely that the U.S. will succeed.

HOW LIKELY IS U.S. TO SUCCEED IN IRAQ?

Very likely
22%
Somewhat likely
40%
Not very likely
25%
Not at all likely
10%

The public is similarly confident that the U.S. will succeed in the specific task of establishing a democratic government in Iraq: 61 percent say the U.S. is likely to do that, with 15 percent saying it's very likely to happen.

There is not, however, a lot of confidence among Americans that the President has a concrete plan for improving what most see as a bad situation in Iraq today: just 28 percent believe that Bush has a plan for dealing with the situation there.

DOES BUSH HAVE A PLAN FOR IRAQ?

Yes
28%
No
63%

The Bush Administration has said it has no plans to set a timetable for bringing the troops home from Iraq, and has noted what it sees as the dangers of doing so. Nonetheless, most Americans -- 55 percent -- would like to see a timetable for withdrawal.

SHOULD U.S. SET TIMETABLE FOR BRINGING HOME TROOPS?

Yes
55%
No
40%

45 percent of Americans want to see troop levels in Iraq decreased; most of them also think the war was the wrong thing to do in the first place. One-third of Americans would keep troop levels the same for now. Few -- just 15 percent -- want to increase them.

U.S. TROOP LEVELS IN IRAQ SHOULD BE:

Increased
15%
Kept the same
32%
Decreased
45%

Overall, Americans continue to divide on whether or not taking military action in Iraq was the right thing to do -- as they have for more than a year.

U.S. MILITARY ACTION IN IRAQ

Right thing
Now
48%
6/2005
45%
4/2005
47%
1/2005
45%

Should have stayed out
Now
47%
6/2005
51%
4/2005
48%
1/2005
49%

THE GOVERNMENT'S RESPONSE TO TERRORISM

Americans today are less confident the government has done all it could to make the country safe from terrorism than they were before the start of the war with Iraq. 41 percent say the government has done all it reasonably could to keep the country safe from terrorism since September 11, 2001, but 54 percent think they could have done more. Back in January 2003, before the U.S. took military action against Iraq, more than half said the federal government had done all it reasonably could to keep the country safe from future terror attacks.

HAS FEDERAL GOVERNMENT DONE ALL IT COULD TO MAKE U.S. SAFE?

Yes
Now
41%
1/2003
52%

No
Now
54%
1/2003
45%

A majority of Republicans say the federal government had done all it reasonably could to protect the country from future attacks, while a majority of Democrats disagree.

Americans feel better about airport security. A majority -- 54 percent -- says the government has done all it could reasonably be expected to do to improve airport security, though 42 percent say it could have done more. The government, however, receives very low marks on the security of mass transit systems. Six in 10 say the government could have done more to improve security on trains and mass transit system since September 11, 2001.

HAS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT DONE ENOUGH TO IMPROVE SECURITY AT …?

Airports
Yes
54%
No
42%

Mass Transit
Yes
26%
No
61%

THE PRESIDENT

Ratings of George W. Bush are similar to what they were last month. Now, 45 percent of Americans approve of the overall job Bush is doing as president, up from 42 percent last month. Bush does not appear to have yet received a large boost from Americans' renewed focus on terrorism, which remains his strongest area. 54 percent now approve of the Bush's handling of the campaign against terrorism.

Bush's ratings on the economy and Iraq remain much as they were in June. 40 percent approve of his handling of the economy, 39 percent approve of his handling of Iraq.

BUSH'S JOB APPROVALS

Overall
Now
45%
6//2005
42%

Campaign against terrorism
Now
54%
6/2005
52%

The economy
Now
40%
6/2005
39%

War in Iraq
Now
39%
6/200537
37%

Approval ratings for Congress continue to be low. 33 percent now approve of the job Congress is doing, while 50% disapprove. These percentages are nearly identical to those in June.

CONGRESS' JOB APPROVAL

Approve
Now
33%
6/2005
33%
5/2005
29%
4/2005
35%

Disapprove
Now
50%
6/2005
53%
5/2005
55%
4/2005
51%



This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 632 adults, interviewed by telephone July 13-14, 2005. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus four percentage points for results based on all adults. Error for subgroups is higher.

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

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