Even with the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks approaching, Americans’ fear of an imminent terrorist attack has dramatically decreased in the weeks since the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May, according to a new USA Today/Gallup poll.
Thirty-eight percent of Americans surveyed said a terrorist attack was either somewhat or very likely to occur in the next several weeks – drastically down from the 62 percent who feared terrorists would retaliate for the covert operation that killed the al-Qaida leader in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 1.
The result in the new survey is less than half that of nearly a decade ago after the 9/11 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans. In 2001, a high of 85 percent of Americans believed that another terrorist attack was imminent.
The latest poll, based on a random sample of 1,008 Americans with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, was conducted in mid-August, in the run-up to the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Thirty-six percent of Americans said they were worried that they or a family member would be the victim of a terrorist attack -- with women, Republicans, and adults age 35 and older expressing more concern about such an attack. In the poll taken within the first few weeks after 9/11, nearly 60 percent of Americans shared this fear.
Despite what U.S. officials have touted as major advances in airline passenger screening procedures, border security, and institutional reform over the last decade, only 22 percent of Americans said they have a “great deal” of confidence in the government’s ability to protect its citizens from future terrorist attacks.
While this is significantly lower than the 41 percent of Americans who said they were very confident in the nation’s leadership immediately after the 9/11 attacks, the percentage has been on the upswing since its lowest point in 2006. That year, as violence soared in Iraq and Americans became increasingly critical of the war, only 16 percent of those surveyed said they were very confident in the government’s ability to prevent terrorist attacks.
Still, this year's poll reveals that another 53 percent said they have a “fair amount” of trust in the government to protect them from terrorist attacks; only 18 percent said they don’t have very much confidence in the government’s abilities.