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Poll: Strong Support For War Effort

Americans increasingly expect that the U.S. will go to war – a war they believe will be difficult, last for many years and could cost many American lives – and they overwhelmingly support that effort. Most think this war should be waged not only against the terrorists behind the September 11th attacks, but also against the countries that harbor them.

Nearly two weeks after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, 85 percent expect the United States will go to war; 10 days ago, 68 percent held that expectation. More than 9 in 10 Americans would support that: 92 percent now think the United States should take military action against whomever is responsible for the attacks. A week ago, 85 percent felt that way.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
Will U.S. Go To War?








The war against terrorism, though costly, is one most Americans believe can be won.

The terrorist actions of September 11th have also brought about increased economic concern. Belief that the United States is now, or will soon be, in a recession has jumped sharply in the last week, and many Americans admit their own travel and spending habits are likely to change in the near future.

Americans continue to rally around President George W. Bush and his administration's response - and they also have rallied around New York City's Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and the city itself in the aftermath of the attacks.

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Americans strongly support President Bush's assertion that those who harbor terrorists are also U.S. enemies. When asked directly whether the United States should wage war against the terrorists only, or against the terrorists and the countries harboring them, two-thirds think military action should be directed against the terrorists AND the countries that harbor them. Just 27 percent feel military action should be directed against the terrorists only.

The Bush administration has so far restrained from positively identifying Osama bin Laden as the mastermind behind the September 11th attacks. And more than three in four Americans would prefer to wait until the United States is certain who was behind those attacks before taking military action. Fewer than 1 in 5 think there should be immediate action against those who are suspects in the attacks.

There is, however, no consensus as to exactly when military action should occur. Thirty-five percent would like to see the United States take action within the next few days or weeks. Another 23 percent think we should wait until at least the next few months, while 35 percent think the time to act is when we know for certain who is responsible for the attacks, or as long as is necessary.

The public is prepared for this conflict to be difficult and costly. Seventy-eight percent believe fighting against terrorists will be more difficult than fighting against the type of enemies we have faced in the past. Only 1 in 5 expect such a conflict to be easier or the same as past U.S. military actions.

Most think any war effort will continue for quite some time: 68 percent think a war against countries who harbor terrorists would last a year or longer. Just over one-quarter thinks it would be over in less than a year. Only 3 percent think it would be over in a few weeks.

At the start of the Gulf War, only 21 percent expected that conflict to last at least a year or more, 42 percent thought it would take several months, and 29 percent expected that war to be over in a few weeks.

Half of Americans expect this conflict to be a conventional war against those responsible. Fifty percent think the United States will be involved in a conventional war, one that includes sending ground troops; 40 percent expect U.S. military involvement to be limited to raids on suspected terrorist camps.

Most Americans expect ground troops and cruise missile attacks to be part of any military action. Eighty-one percent think the United States will deploy cruise missiles, 79 percent think ground troops will be sent; 63 percent expect assassination attempts.

Twenty-eight percent expect fewer than 1,000 American soldiers to lose their lives in a war against terrorists, while similar numbers expect between 1 to 5,000 American military casualties, or even more than that.

Despite expectations about a lengthy involvement that could cost many American lives, significant numbers still support a U.S. military effort:

  • 72 percent support military action, even if it meant the United States would be engaged in a war for many years;
  • 72 percent support military action, even if that means U.S. military personnel would be killed;
  • just over two-thirds support military efforts even in the face of casualties amounting to many thousands of innocent civilians.

    In addition, 83 percent would support U.S. military involvement, even if it means the U.S. would go to war against a nation that is harboring the terrorists.

    Historically, men tend to be stronger supporters of military action than women. In this poll, both men and women equally think the United States will, and should, go to war.

    One additional reason for support of U.S. military action is confidence that the U.S. will prevail. More than four out of five are confident the U.S. will win the war against terrorists, while only 8 percent are not. And 73 percent think it is very likely the U.S. will win.

    In addition, 92 percent are confident that the country will catch the people who planned the September 11th attacks. Seventy-five percent believe the U.S. government now knows who was behind those attacks. When asked who they think is responsible, two-thirds name Osama bin aden.


    Americans put more blame on airport security than on government policies or intelligence failures for the success of the attacks - but all share in the blame. Eighty-eight percent place a lot or some blame for the attacks on security at U.S. airports; 68 percent blame past U.S. policies in the Middle East, and a similar percentage blame U.S. intelligence agencies such as the FBI or the CIA.

    However, 88 percent have confidence that the United States will protect its citizens from similar future attacks. Sixty-one percent think the government has now done enough to make the country more secure against another terrorist attack, while 30 percent think it has not done enough.

    Facing the prospect of war against the terrorists, Americans think additional acts of terrorism are likely. Seventy-eight percent think it is likely there will be another terrorist attack on the United States within the next few months, while only 20 percent think that is unlikely.

    Still, only 32 percent are very concerned about a terrorist attack in the area where they live, while 66 percent are not. Women are much more concerned than men about a terrorist attack in their community, by 41 percent to 22 percent. Those who live in large cities are also more concerned about terrorism in their area.


    The biggest one-week point drop on Wall Street since it reopened for business after the terrorist attacks has further deepened growing economic concerns. For the first time since George W. Bush took office, the majority of Americans say the United States is in an economic recession. Sixty-three percent now think the country is in recession, up from 48 percent immediately after the tragedy on September 11.

    In addition, 24 percent say the United States is near an economic recession. Only 10 percent disagree.

    CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
    Is the U.S. in economic recession?

     Yes, in a recessionNear a recessionNo, an not near a recession




    CBSNEWS Polls

    The terrorist attacks clearly have pushed belief in recession to a majority. In August, 44 percent said the United States was in an economic recession, and a similar percentage - 40 percent - now agree that the United States was in a recession before the attacks. However, an additional 21 percent who didn't think we were in a recession before the attacks now think so.

    A slight majority of Americans (53 percent) still rate the condition of the national economy as very good or fairly good, but an increasing majority, 55 percent, expect the economy to get worse. Thirty-five percent think the economy will stay about the same, and only 8 percent think the economy will get better.

    Investors, presumably hit harder by the falling stock market, are more pessimistic than non-investors about the economic outlook. While those who have money invested in the stock market are split as to whether the economy is in good shape or bad shape, nearly six in ten investors think it is getting worse. In contrast, 60 percent of non-investors say the economy is still in good shape, and less than half of them think it will get worse.

    While the terrorist attacks have not yet directly affected the way most Americans say they spend and invest their money, a substantial minority admits an impact in a negative direction. Seenty-five percent say the attacks have not had any effect on the way they and their family spend money. But, Americans are more than three times more likely to have cut back on their spending tha to have increased it.

    Similarly, while most investors say the attacks have not had an effect on the way they invest, more say they are less likely to invest in the stock market now than say they are more likely to do so. Sixty-four percent say the attacks haven't affected the way they invest; 22 percent say they are now less likely to invest in the stock market, and 13 percent say they are more likely to invest in the stock market after the attacks. In fact, 88 percent of investors say they have not done anything with their investments since Wall Street reopened last week.


    As time passes since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11th, more Americans think the United States should return to business as usual as soon as possible. Now, 85 percent think the country should return to business as usual, a 26-point jump from 10 days ago. Only 12 percent feel the country needs more time before it can go back to business as usual.

    Two-thirds say the U.S. is ready now to go back to business and only a quarter say it is too soon. Last week, only 37 percent said the country was immediately ready to return to normal, whereas almost half thought the country needed more time.

    Among those who think it is too soon for the U.S. to return to business as usual now, 47 percent say the country will be ready in the very near future -- in the next few days or the next few weeks, and another half say it will take several months or longer.


    Business as usual may not be quite the same as it was before the attacks, since 79 percent think Americans will have to give up some of their personal freedoms in order to make the country safe from terrorist attacks, up slightly from earlier this month. Only 19 percent think Americans will not have to do so.

    Americans are in favor of implementing many security measures -- such as tighter security at airports and at public buildings -- in order to reduce the treat of terrorism. Eighty-seven percent are in favor of more security checkpoints and metal detectors at public events and buildings, even if that meant more time waiting in line. And among those who fly, 85 percent say they would be willing to arrive at the airport three hours before each domestic flight.

    There is also support for the government to require everyone in the United States to carry a national electronic identification card, or "smart card" that would have detailed information about each person. Fifty-six percent of Americans are willing to allow the government to issue such cards in order to reduce the treat of terrorism whereas 38 percent are not.

    One security measure a majority has not embraced (though support is increasing) is allowing government agencies to monitor the phone calls and e-mail of Americans on a regular basis. Fifty-one percent say they would not be willing to have their communications monitored and 45 percent say they would be. In the immediate aftermath o the attacks, 39 percent supported such surveillance.


    Air travel is down significantly since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11th, causing massive lay-offs in the airline industry. More than a third of the public admits that the attacks have affected their willingness to fly.

    Although 60 percent say the attacks didn't have much of an effect on whether or not they would fly, 36 percent say the attacks have made them less likely to fly, and only 3 percent are more likely to get on a plane. When asked how they feel about flying in general, over four in ten Americans are not at all afraid to fly, 33 percent say it bothers them slightly, and 22 percent are afraid of flying. These numbers are virtually the same as those recorded after the crash of TWA flight 800 in 1996.

    Americans overwhelmingly support the federal government helping the airline industry out of their financial crisis. Seventy-nine percent say the government should bail out the airlines and only 16 percent say they should not. On Saturday, while the poll was being conducted, President Bush signed into law a $15 billion aid package for the airline industry which includes both direct financial aid and loan guarantees.

    The attacks may have had less impact on public willingness to attend large public gatherings, including sporting events, though some would stay away. Among those who attend public sporting events, 87 percent say the attacks have had no effect on their behavior, while 10 percent say it has made them less likely to attend.


    Most Americans say they personally feel friendly towards people from the Middle East and don't harbor any negative feelings because of the Sept. 11th attacks. However, in nearly all questions asked, about one-quarter admit to suspicions of and negative feelings towards Arabs and Arab Americans.

    Fifty-one percent of Americans describe their feelings toward people from the Middle East as friendly, and 33 percent feel unfriendly. Sixty-eight percent say that although Arabs were involved in the attacks on the U.S., that doesn't affect their opinion of Arabs, but 28% say the attacks have made them feel Arabs are less trustworthy. An almost equal number - 26 percent - think Arab Americans are more sympathetic to terrorists than other American citizens are. However, most Americans disagree with this view.

    Seventy-four percent of Americans say they do not have any negative feelings toward Arabs because of the terrorist attacks, while 24 percent say they do have negative feelings.

    Overall, however, 68 percent of Americans believe anti-Arab sentiment in the United States is on the rise. Almost all Americans - 90 percent - believe it is likely that Arab Americans, Muslims and immigrants from the Middle East will be singled out unfairly by people in the U.S. And, 50 percent think this is very likely.

    Fifty-seven percent of Americans are in favor of decreased immigratin, and 83 percent think the United States has made it too easy for people from other countries to enter the country.


    The American public continues to rally behind its president, and to express confidence in his leadership during this time of crisis.

    Now, 90 percent approve of the way George W. Bush is handling the attacks, only 6 percent disapprove. Public approval of President Bush's handling of the attacks has been bipartisan, and rising steadily since the tragedy happened.

    CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
    Bush's Handling of the Attacks









    CBSNEWS Polls

    Mr. Bush's overall job approval has also reached a new high - now 89 percent approve of the job he is doing as president, and only 7 percent disapprove.

    George W. Bush's overall approval rating is now higher than the highest approval rating recorded by this poll for his father, President George H.W. Bush, during the Gulf War. In January 1991, then-President Bush's job approval jumped from 66 percent to 84 percent immediately following the start of the Gulf War, and his highest approval rating, 88 percent, occurred in March 1991, right after the end of the Gulf War.

    By nine to one, the public now expresses a lot or some confidence in the president's ability to handle a crisis. Overwhelming majorities also believe that Mr. Bush demonstrates strong leadership, has good judgment under pressure, and has explained the administration's strategies for handling the terrorist attacks clearly enough to the public. Evaluations of President Bush have improved dramatically since just three months ago; in fact, on judgment and leadership qualities, George W. Bush now received is highest marks ever in this poll.

    The public also expresses overall confidence in Mr. Bush and his administration. Seventy percent say they have equal confidence in the decision-making of the president and his advisors. Twenty-eight percent, however, trust Mr. Bush's advisors more with decision-making, while 5 percent place more trust in the president himself.

    When asked what they like most about George W. Bush as president, the public names his integrity (18 percent), strong leadership and good decision making (15 percent), handling of the terrorist attacks (15 percent), and his overall approach (10 percent).

    Nearly three in ten Americans say they have no worries about Mr. Bush as president. But among those who do, most concerns have to do with the current situation. Fourteen percent named things that are directly related to the terrorist attacks - that Mr. Bush will bring the United States into a broad war that he will not be able to finish, the way he is handling the attacks in general, or that Mr. Bush has been too aggressive in his reaction to the attacks. There is also concern among about one in ten Americans that Mr. Bush is not experienced enough to be president (especially in light of the current crisis), although less so now than before Bush took office.


    The public gives New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani extremely high marks for his handling of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center - even higher than those given to President Bush. Almost all Americans - 95 percent - approve of the way Mayor Giuliani is handling the attacks on the World Trade Center.

    In addition, 84 percent of Americans say they have a good image of New York City, compared with 61 percent who said so in 1998, and 43 percent who said so in 1996.


    Most Americans claim the terrorist attacks will not deter them from visiting the Big Apple (as Mayor Giuliani has suggested they do) - or any major city in the United States for that matter. Eighty percent would visit a major American city in the next six months if they had the time and could afford to do so. Somewhat fewer would travel to New York City; 61 percent say they would do so in the next six months if they could.

    In 1998, those living in the Midwest were the least likely to have a favorable image of New York City. But now Midwesterners views of New York City have improved; 82 percent have a good image of New York City, and six out of ten would visit the Big Apple in the next six months if they could.


    In the wake of the terrorist attacks, Americans want to see federal spending on agencies like the C.I.A. increased. Sixty-three percent say spending should be increased, 28 percent say it should be kept the same, and only 3 percent think spending on intelligence agencies should be decreased. Back in 1991, almost half of the public thought federal spending on the C.I.A should be decreased and only 5 percent thought it should be increased.


    The attacks have served to unite Americans behind their country, and may have contributed to a renewed sense of patriotism. Now, 72 percent of Americans feel very patriotic, a significant increase since 1991, when 55 percent said they were very patriotic; 24 percent feel somewhat patriotic and 3 percent are not very patriotic.

    This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 1216 adults, interviewed by telephone September 20-23, 2001. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on the entire sample.For detailed information on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys, click here.

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