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Poll: U.S. Not Prepared For Bioterror

President Bush continues to receive extremely high approval ratings, but the high levels of confidence expressed early this fall that the government would be able to capture the terrorists and protect the public show signs of weakening, according to the latest CBS News/New York Times poll.

And in the wake of the recent deaths of several postal workers from anthrax and its discovery in letters sent to government leaders and the news media, majorities of the public think the government - national and state and local - has not done enough to prepare for a biological attack.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls

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tate and local government




While Americans in many parts of the country say they are not very concerned about a possible terrorist attack where they live, the percentage expecting an attack somewhere in the U.S. in the next few months has been steadily growing since September 11. Now, 53 percent say an attack in the next few months is very likely.

Many feel that they haven't been told enough about the current threat from anthrax. Although 94 percent say they've been following the news about anthrax closely (with 56 percent following it very closely), less than half thinks that the government has been telling people everything they need to know about the anthrax attacks, a problem that may be alleviated by the decision made this weekend to have Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge brief the news media on a daily basis.

Just 15 percent say they have a great deal of confidence that the government can protect its citizens from terrorist attacks involving anthrax, though most have at least some confidence. And evaluations of government units' handling of the anthrax attacks are mixed - though the Bush administration is viewed more positively than Congress, both are viewed more positively than the Postal Service.

Perhaps as a consequence, minorities of the public are prepared to dismiss public health officials' advice and take action on their own. Over one in four have decided that people should ask their doctors for the drug Cipro as a precaution, and not wait for public health officials to recommend it for them. And 8 percent say they want to be tested for the possibility of anthrax exposure now.

One group that is especially cynical is the young. Just under two-thirds of those under age 30 do not think the government is telling people all they need to know. Younger adults are more likely to want to be tested for anthrax exposure, and to believe people should ask doctors now for Cipro.

There is also a behavioral impact. One in four Americans say they have become more cautious when opening teir mail - and another 22 percent are seriously considering doing that. Even more of those under 30 say their behavior has changed.


Most Americans continue to be confident that the U.S. will succeed in its war against terrorism, but as the war continues, some of the initial optimism Americans expressed seems to be fading.

Now, 28 percent are very confident that the U.S. government will capture or kill bin Laden, and 42 percent are somewhat confident. Three weeks ago, as the military attacks began, 38 percent were very confident, and 38 percent were somewhat so, in the ability of the U.S. to capture or kill bin Laden.

And fewer now think the war is going very well for the U.S. than thought so three weeks ago. Twenty-five percent now say the war is going very well for the U.S. Just after the initial air attacks began, 36 percent said that. Fifty-eight percent now think the war is going somewhat well, while 13 percent think it is going somewhat or very badly.

Anti-American rallies in Pakistan and in some Middle Eastern countries may have reduced public confidence that America's allies will all stand behind her. Now, 29 percent are very confident the U.S. government will be able to hold together the international alliance of countries supporting U.S. military efforts; three weeks ago, 46 percent felt that way.

There are limits as well in the public's confidence that the government will be able to catch those responsible for sending anthrax through the mail - 23 percent are very confident about that, fewer than are still confident that the U.S. will capture or kill bin Laden.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls

 VerySomewhatNot too/not at all





Most still have some confidence in the U.S.'s ability to protect its citizens from another terrorist attack, but even there confidence is shrinking. Confidence in the government's ability to protect its citizens from a terrorist attack involving anthrax is slightly lower, with less than one in five expressing a great deal of confidence in government being able to do either.

But this lowered confidence level hasn't made people more concerned about terrorism in their community. In fact, if anything, most people's concerns about terrorism in their own backyards has lessened. Twenty-six percent now are very concerned about a terrorist attack where they live. Three weeks ago 30 percent felt that way. On September 11, that figure was 43 percent. There are differences by gender, and differences based on where people live.

About the same number - 28 percent - are very concerned about a biological or chemical attack such as anthrax in their area.


Support for the U.S.-led military attacks in Afghanistan, despite the increased worries, remains extremely high. Now, 88 percent approve of the attacks, and 8 percent disapprove, unchanged since the attacks began three weeks ago.

Fewer Americans - although still a sizable majority - support the U.S. providing humanitarian aid to the people of Afghanistan. Seventy-eight percent approve of the U.S. doing so, and 18 percent disapprove.

As has been the case since just after the September 11th attacks, Americans expect this to be a drawn out conflict; 64 percent think the military attacks will take longer than several months. Twenty-three percent expect it to take several months, and 7 percent think the conflict willast several more weeks.

But the much larger war on terrorism is expected to take longer than the military action in Afghanistan. Eighty-eight percent now think the war on terrorism will last a year or longer, up from 65 percent three weeks ago. Only 6 percent think that war will last several months.

Many also expect the conflict to spread to other parts of the Middle East. Thirty-two percent think it is very likely that the military action in Afghanistan will become a more widespread military action in neighboring countries and other parts of the world, and 51 percent think this is somewhat likely.

But this lengthy and potentially broader war is viewed as worthwhile, even in the face of significant American military casualties. Sixty-one percent think the war in Afghanistan would be worth it even if it meant several thousand American troops would lose their lives; 27 percent say the war there would not be worth that cost.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls

 Worth itNot worth it




At the starof the Gulf War, 45 percent thought a ground war would be worth fighting even it if meant several thousand American military casualties, and 42 percent thought it would not be worthwhile.

Many Americans see the goal of the military action in Afghanistan as much broader than just getting rid of Osama bin Laden. Forty-eight percent think the main goal is to eliminate all terrorists from the country; 18 percent think the goal is to topple the Taliban government, and 16 percent think the goal is to eliminate bin Laden. Those goals are in accordance with what Americans believe the U.S. ought to be doing in Afghanistan. Fifty-seven percent of the public thinks the goal there should be to eliminate all terrorists.

When it comes to dissent in the U.S., 53 percent believe Americans who oppose U.S. military action in Afghanistan should be free to hold protest marches and rallies, while 38 percent think that hurts the war effort.


The September 11th terrorist attacks affected more than just the people in New York City and Washington. More than a third of all Americans say they have felt nervous or edgy since the attacks (one in five say they still do), and 17 percent have had trouble sleeping.

Not surprisingly, people living in big cities and the Northeast are more likely than others to report suffering from these adverse effects. The national level of edginess and sleeplessness is significantly lower than that recorded among New Yorkers in a CBS News/New York Times poll conducted earlier this month. In that poll, 42 percent of New Yorkers said they still felt nervous, and 22 percent said they were still having trouble sleeping at night.

Women are much more likely than men to have experienced - and to be still experiencing - these effects of the terrorist attacks. More than a quarter of women nationwide say they still feel nervous nowadays, and one in ten are still having trouble sleeping, compared with 14 percent and 3 percent of men respectively.

The terrorist attacks have had an economic impact nationally as well. Nearly one in ten people in the U.S. labor force say they have lost their job or a significant amount of income since the attack. The economic aftermath of the attack has been felt in all regions, though less so in the South. The national impact is about half the size of the impact in New York City.

The improvement in perceptions of the economy that happened after the September 11th attacks has all but disappeared. Now, 56 percent think the economy is in good shape, and 42 percent think it is in bad shape. Three weeks ago, 66 percent thought the economy was good, and 29 percent thought it was bad. Just before the September attacks, the outlook was about what it is now, marking some of the lowest levels in positive assessment of the economy in years.

Thirty-seven percent now think the economy is getting worse, 14 percent think it is getting betteand 46 percent think it is staying the same.

The terrorist attacks made Americans spend more time with their families and friends. More than one-third of Americans say they have been spending more time with their family and close friends in the weeks after the terrorist attacks.

Women are more likely than men to have spent more time with families and friends since the September 11th attacks, 40 percent to 29 percent. Those in the Northeast are also more likely to have spent more time together with their family and close friends than the rest of Americans.

Just under one in ten Americans has canceled trips because of the terrorist attacks, and travel over the upcoming holidays may also be lower than usual. Seventeen percent of Americans say they plan to travel by plane during the Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays this year; that number is lower than the percentage who traveled by air for last year's holidays.

Half of those who traveled last year won't this year - but one in ten Americans who didn't travel by plane during the 2000 holiday season will in 2001.

Fear of flying is a factor in the expected drop in air travel for the holidays. Among those who say they are not at all afraid of flying, just about the same percentage - one in four - report plans to fly this Thanksgiving or Christmas as say they flew last year.

But far fewer of those afraid or bothered by flying plan to travel by plane this year than did so for the 2000 holidays. Just 8 percent of fearful fliers say they plan to travel by plane this year, while twice as many, 15 percent, say they flew last year. Twelve percent of those bothered slightly by flying say they'll fly this year; 18 percent of that group say they flew last year.


The public clearly believes the government should take an increased role in airport security - and take the responsibility for hiring and supervising airport security employees. And while more think the government has done enough to improve airport security since September 11 than think the airlines have, it's clear that many think both the government and the airlines need to be doing more.

Half of Americans say the federal government has done enough to improve airport security, but 42 percent feel the government hasn't done enough. When asked about the airlines, just 42 percent say the airlines have done enough to improve airport security, while 50 percent think they have not.

The federal government has a major role in providing airport security, according to nearly all Americans. When asked who should be responsible for airport security personnel, 91 percent say the federal government should have some responsibility. But the president and the U.S. Senate currently are at odds on what kind of government responsibility.

The airport security bill passed by the Senate places the full responsibility for airport security on the federal government, making those workers government emloyees. President Bush favors government supervision of private contractors. The public clearly takes the Senate's side, 52 percent to 39 percent. Forty-six percent of Republicans agree with the Democratic-controlled Senate on this issue.

Despite Americans' focus on airport security and the significant decline in air travel, 46 percent the public say they are not at all afraid to fly, up just slightly from September, immediately after the attacks. Thirty-one percent say flying bothers them slightly and 21 percent admit they are afraid of flying. But fears do influence behavior. Among those who have actually flown since September 11, only 3 percent say they're afraid of flying.


The president continues to enjoy exceptionally high approval ratings for his handling of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but they have gone down slightly from earlier this month. As was the case at the start of the U.S. military attacks on Afghanistan, Americans overwhelmingly approve of the job President Bush is doing. Large majorities approve of his handling of the war on terrorism, foreign policy and the economy.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls








Eighty-seven percent of Americans now approve of Mr. Bush's job as president while only 8 percent disapprove. A few weeks ago, Mr. Bush received an overall job approval of 90 percent, his highest to date.

When it comes to his handling of foreign policy, Mr. Bush's rating has gone up significantly since before the terrorist attacks in September. Currently, 74 percent of Americans approve of the way the president his handling foreign policy, up from 49 percent two months ago.

Now, 88 percent approve of his handling of the attacks and 8 percent disapprove. Earlier this month, 92 percent approved and 4 percent disapproved. When asked specifically how Mr. Bush is handling the war on terrorism, 79 percent approve of the job he doing, while 16 percent disapprove.

Despite the impact of the terrorist attacks on the U.S. economy, a majority of Americans also approve of the job Mr. Bush is doing handling it. Almost two-thirds now approve of his handling of this issue. However, this is down somewhat from a few weeks ago when 71 percent of the public approved of the job he was doing - the highest economic approval rating Bush had received since assuming office. Only 25 percent disapprove of his handling of the economy.

Congressional approval has also risen since September. Now, 67 percent approve of the job Congress is doing, up from 43 percent in August.


The increase in government support that has been notd since September 11th as the nation rallied itself after the attack may, even now, have limits. While trust in government is higher than before the attacks, it is lower than that recorded in some polls just a few weeks ago. And there is no indication that the public is significantly more supportive of a larger government supplying more services than it was before the attacks.

In this poll, 61 percent say that things in this country are generally headed in the right direction, a level not reached or neared since two other rally points - the end of the Persian Gulf War and the revelations about President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky in early 1998. Just 29 percent say things are on the wrong track. But in the week following September 11, as many as 72 percent of Americans in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll said things were headed in the right direction.

More than half - 55 percent - say they trust the government in Washington to do what is right all or most of the time - more than ever recorded in a CBS News/New York Times poll. But that figure, too, is down from one recorded in a Washington Post poll conducted in late September.

There is a partisan cast to those figures, with Republicans more trusting of government than Democrats - at least for now. Independents look more like Democrats than like Republicans on this question.

However, while more Americans trust government, more also say they do not want government to get bigger. Only four in ten say they want to have a bigger government, providing more services. Nearly half want a smaller government providing fewer services. The percentages are not all that much different from those seen earlier this year.

In addition, a majority still believes that people in government waste a lot of money paid in taxes.


The terrorist attacks appear to have changed little in American overall attitudes towards Israel, nor have they lessened public support for Israel in the Middle East conflict. Forty-eight percent now say they are more in sympathy with Israel with regard to the situation in the Middle East, 19 percent say they sympathize more with the Arab nations and 13 percent sympathize with neither. These views are largely unchanged compared with those ten years ago.

Six in ten Americans have a favorable opinion about Israel. Just under a quarter have an unfavorable opinion of Israel - views that are virtually unchanged since April 1998.

In contrast, 22 percent say they have a favorable opinion about the Palestine Liberation Organization, while 57 percent say their opinion is unfavorable. Favorable views of the P.L.O. have doubled, however, from three and a half years ago; then, only 11 percent said their opinion of the P.L.O. was favorable.

Most Americans reject charges that that the U.S. has failed to adequately promote itself in the Middle East. Sixty-two percent think the government is currently doing enough to help pople in the Arab world understand what the U.S. is trying to do there, and 28 percent think it is not.

Many also reject the statement that a major cause of the problems for the U.S. in the Middle East is that we have paid too much attention to Israel, and not enough attention to the Arab nations. Thirty-nine percent agree with that, but 46 percent disagree.

Men are more critical of the U.S. Middle East policy than women. Forty-nine percent of men think U.S. policy in the Middle East is a major cause of the problems in the region, compared with 29 percent of women who think so.

There has been a slight increase in support for one Arab goal - the establishment of a Palestinian state. Thirty-eight percent favor the establishment of a Palestinian homeland in the occupied territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Twenty-nine percent oppose that, and another one-third have no opinion one way or the other.

But opinions of Saudi Arabia are not as positive as they have been in the past. Most Americans do view Saudi Arabia as friendly towards the United States, but fewer see it as an ally than did so one year ago. Only one in ten consider Saudi Arabia an ally of the United States, and about half now view Saudi Arabia as friendly but not an ally. In a Gallup poll in May 2000, 19 percent thought of Saudi Arabia as an ally to the United States, and 37 percent said it was friendly but not an ally. Nearly a third now consider Saudi Arabia as unfriendly or an enemy.

This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 1,024 adults, interviewed by telephone October 25-28, 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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